Here at Food Blogging Collective, we love telling you guys all about different ways to grow and diversify your food businesses, and today’s post features a great way to do just that – street food! If you’ve ever been interested in starting your own street-food business and want to know exactly what it takes, then this post is for you!
Today’s post comes from Lauren, the owner of Carpe Diem Pizzas. Carpe Diem Pizzas is based in Hertfordshire, UK, and travels around the country setting up shop at weddings, food festivals, and fairs. It’s a true family affair with Lauren, her mum, brother, and fiance all helping out! In this informative post, Lauren tells us what it’s really like to devote your time to street food and grow a successful business from the ground up. Perhaps you might discover your passion for food on the go, too?
If you are reading this then you love food. If you don’t, then why are you trying to open a street-food business? I can say from personal experience that it is hard work. For a job like this you’ll have to be able to sacrifice a lot, so if you don’t LOVE it then don’t go there. From a very young age, I always knew that I wanted to be my own boss. I didn’t know what form it would be, but I did know that whatever it was I would have to be passionate about it. In street food and food in general if you aren’t passionate about what you do it really shows in your product.
Pin me for later!
The street-food trend is proving to not be a trend, but rather a permanent fixture on the foodie scene. This is both a good and a bad thing. Why bad I hear you ask? Gone are the days that street food meant greasy, dodgy burgers in a layby – surely that can only be a good thing? Well, yes, but if you are starting up in this industry it also means you have A LOT of competition. Again, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Competition means you have to really push yourself to create your best product.
Another thing that you need to get used to is comparing yourself to other companies. I did this a lot when I first started; it really didn’t do anyone any favours, especially me. What is funny is that when I let go of worrying about what other companies were up to, my company got better. And yes, social media was one of the worst places for this. When I stopped looking for posts that would make me feel bad, I used social media in the way it should be used: to share my success and happiness and support others’ success.
Our business, Carpe Diem Pizzas, has been going for just over a year now and I cannot believe how much I’ve learned in our first year. I am a perfectionist, so, I have really learned to try and let go of the stress when I can’t do anything about it. My other major realisation was that as long as you learn from every mistake or bad event, then you have actually gained experience. However much you plan and strategise, there is always going to be a time when you think “what am I doing?”. Working all hours under the sun (and moon!!), to not get anywhere fast, can be painful. As long as you are focused on your long-term goal then every good day is a step closer to it. I know I’m repeating myself but if you aren’t passionate then why put yourself through it? You may see these events and see food flying out and think pfftt this must be a walk in the park. I’d love to say yes, it is you go by that Air Streamer you’ve found on eBay! But it isn’t quite like that: long hours, British weather, bad events, delightful clients – you name it, it can happen. I started our business with the naivety of “if you build it they will come”. You’ll learn pretty quickly that life isn’t quite like that.
Jeez, I’m making it sound like I hate my job. In fact, it is quite the opposite: I LOVE IT. Every day is different, every event is unique and everyday you feel like anything could happen. I get bored quickly so this works perfectly for me. You never know what is going to happen that day and the anticipation of what could be keeps me going. I have learnt to have faith in what I do and what as a company we have to offer. Until you do this you do not know the nervousness you feel when you first put yourself out there. If you do this you are a passionate person so you are really putting yourself out there. You’re super vulnerable as people are going to be judging your passion. Be aware of your target market, especially in our first year I made the mistake of booking events that were not our target market. With the panicked idea that anything is better than nothing, surely? Nope, I tell you what is soul destroying; people walking past your set up openly stating their opinion. ‘Mmm No’ or ‘I don’t fancy Pizza.’ It is hard to avoid self-doubt, know your worth and focus on events that you know will have your target audience. You’ll need a thick skin and learn to say no to opportunities if they don’t feel right. That is probably the scariest thing to do, every time you say yes or no it is a gamble. Like I said, have faith in yourself, if things don’t quite go your way; learn from it. As long as you learn something then it wasn’t a waste of time.
So, you’ve read everything above and you’re still crazy enough to want to do this?! Welcome to the club, you’ve already caught the bug.
One more piece of advice, once you’ve caught it, never ever put out that little flame of hope. It took me 5 years from when we first really started looking into this before Carpe Diem Pizzas happened. Have faith in the fact that if it is meant to be, it will be. Anyway, enough of me ranting, I’m over it as much as you are. So you’ve got the bug what the hell do you do next?! Easy just pick your cuisine and you’re off… Obviously, this isn’t true but it definitely is the start, don’t feel panicked that you have to come up with the next big thing. Sometimes the classics are the best to get into; if you make an incredible version of that classic it is a winning combination. Look at Pizza Pilgrims https://www.pizzapilgrims.co.uk/ and Honest Burgers https://www.honestburgers.co.uk/. They started off on the streets just like us, look at where they are now. Some people’s experience of pizzas goes as far as mass-produced pre-packaged ‘pizza’ or Dominos takeaway. When people then try an authentic Wood-Fired Pizza it is life changing! (slight exaggeration, but only slight), Another company who has remade the classics are Cheeky Burgers, http://cheekyburgercompany.com/#!/ their Burgers are insanely good. In fact, so good I want them to cater our Wedding! Proving that doing the classics in an amazing way is a winning formula. Good news, this is one of the hardest decisions you will have to make.
How to do it yourself
So, what now? Let me break it down for you.
- Lose all common sense and decide to sign your life away to start a street-food business.
- Decide on the product that you will be serving.
- Do your research! (yes, that does include eating street food) But do lots and lots of other research.
- Sign up to NCASS www.ncass.org.uk for tonnes of information on starting your own street-food business.
- Figure out your perfect target audience.
- Decide on your long-term goal (don’t worry you can always change your mind); having an end goal helps you shape your future from the beginning.
- Research some more.
- Decide on your set up: Gazebo, Food Truck, Trailer, Kitchen Pop Up? There are so many options nowadays, do what feels best for you.
- Write an in-depth Business Plan.
- Research suppliers for your chosen set up.
- Research your food suppliers (one of the most important parts!).
- Make it all happen.
- Book and smash your first event.
- Keep booking and smashing events.
- Keep going when times seem hard.
- Be proud when you nail it.
- Celebrate all milestones, and I mean all of them!
Seize the day!
One thing you will learn very quickly is that the street-food industry is like a big family; you have lots of helpful ‘relatives’ around always offering help and reassurance, but you have to watch out for the dodgy Uncle who is trying to sell the next big thing…
When we first started I reached out to other traders and people are always so happy to help. However ‘big’ people become, they all started off where you are now: just a normal person with an idea that they just cannot shake. So if that is you, make that scary jump! But please don’t go into this naively, it is a huge thing to do; 50% of small businesses fail within the first five years. Just remember, no one ever achieved anything without taking some sort of risk, so go for it. It could be the best thing that you ever do! Remember 50% of small businesses succeed, there is no reason that that cannot be you. When we started Carpe Diem Pizzas, I found it hard to find anyone else’s start-up story, which just made me want to share mine even more! Check out our Blog www.carpediem-blog.com for the full Story of our Start-Up.