Latest News

10 things to remember when trading at Christmas markets - Essential tips for mobile caterers

Do you pride yourself on serving up delicious warming delights from your mobile catering van? If so, then there’s a very good chance you’ve considered Christmas markets as a possible venue to ply your trade as the dark nights draw in. Just remember these 10 things when trading at Christmas markets and you’ll be sure of a very happy winter trading season indeed.

Winter time trading can bring a range of risks for mobile caterers and their vehicles. A key way to keep your business on track throughout the period is by having the right insurance for your mobile catering needs.

The team of insurance specialists at Mobilers are always just a phone call away. Ready and willing to guide you through issues such as what catering public liability insurance you need.

Festive food

Why Christmas markets are a great idea for mobile caterers

Running a mobile catering business has many advantages throughout the year, but over the Christmas season these opportunities can really rocket. They call it the season to be jolly for good reason.

From hot chocolate and mince pies to spicy hotdogs and turkey schnitzel, Christmas markets bring welcome festive cheer to shoppers and traders alike. Many people see Christmas markets as the ideal opportunity to do some festive shopping while also getting to try out delicious foods from around the world. And that’s where you come in!

According to the Local Government Association, in recent years the German tradition of Christmas markets has seen a real boom in the UK. Many more markets are now appearing in towns and cities across the country leading to big increases in visitor spending. Despite widespread cancellations in 2020, Christmas markets look set to bounce back in 2021. So, be sure to take advantage of this prime opportunity to offer tasty treats and seasonal favourites to festive shoppers.

  1. Get in early

Don’t dilly dally when it comes to securing a stall. As soon as you think a Christmas market might be for you, get in touch with the market organisers in the town or city where it’s taking place. After all, Christmas markets only have a limited space. So, there’s always plenty of competition for spots.

Simply visit the organiser’s website to complete an online application form and pay a holding fee for your stall. Be aware that depending on the size of the stand, additional facilities, and its location, prices can range to well over a thousand pounds! Some organisers also place a surcharge on food businesses to encourage regional foods and healthy eating. And to discourage those traders who produce significant levels of waste.

Many markets have a first-come, first-served policy. And bookings can even begin a year in advance for the most popular markets. Most applications for a spot at a Christmas market end at the beginning of September. Although you probably won’t want to leave it that late!

  1. Plan ahead for an extended Christmas season

For 2021 and perhaps even into 2022, one effect of the current difficult economic climate is that Christmas is starting earlier than ever before. This is because increasing numbers of people are choosing to plan well ahead in order to avoid disappointment. Make sure you’re not left out in the cold by supply chain issues – get your orders in early before the early Christmas rush.

  1. Tap into menu trends to keep things fresh

Have a good look at your menu to see if there are any quick winter food wins  that your mobile catering business can take advantage of. Christmas markets are particularly popular in the evening when the sparkling lights come on and those tummies start rumbling.

This creates a great opportunity for those looking to serve warming drinks and typical Christmas market foods such as Bratwurst, giant pretzels, hog roast, and roast chestnuts. Sweet items such as waffles, pancakes and gingerbread tend to go down well, too.

  1. Take your time to produce an eye-catching display

A well-known saying among foodies is, ‘we eat first with our eyes’. So, if your food stall is dark and dull, it’ll be hard to see what you’ve got on offer and customers will quickly pass you by in favour of more enticing stalls.

Competition at Christmas markets can be fierce, so work on your display to make it bright and inviting to draw more people in. Keep your menu and pricing simple, easy to see and easy to read.

Remember, with so much on offer at the market, you don’t want to confuse shoppers even further. Perhaps try a few different setups and ask for feedback from friends and family before the big event.

  1. Make payment as easy as possible

In our increasingly cashless society many people don’t carry that much money on them anymore. Don’t miss out on sales because you only accept cash. And don’t be put off from taking card payments because you’re worried about the technology.

Nowadays, it’s actually very simple to take card or contactless payments. Indeed, much of the technology is now easily compatible with smartphones and tablets.

What’s more, many payment providers work on the basis of no fixed fees, so you only pay per transaction. And with money going directly into your bank account there’s less worry about thieves making off with your takings at the end of the day.

  1. Hold Christmas market offers and promote them on social media

Everybody loves a discount at Christmas time when there are so many draws on our finances. And the Christmas market crowd is no exception. While you want to keep your menu and pricing simple, that doesn’t mean you can’t add in offers.

Perhaps have one or two key items you could put on offer. For instance, 3 pretzels for the price of 1. Or perhaps a winter market meal deal?

Once you’ve decided on your festive menu and any offers, then use social media to promote your business well in advance of the market dates. Whether before, during or after each market it’s important to show potential customers where you’ve been, what you’ve done and where you’re off to next.

Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook are great for doing this quickly and cheaply and are sure to send hungry crowds your way at your next event. They might even want to hire you for a private event.

If you’re looking for Instagram best practice tips then look no further than our recent article on just this issue. It’s got everything you need to get started now!

Christmas decorations

  1. Think about business cards, leaflets and other great marketing materials

Walk around a Christmas market and you’ll soon realise it’s those traders who have the best marketing that have the longest queues. Creating a buzz around your food truck is the perfect way to bring in customers either on the day or at a later date.

And we don’t just mean your signage and food truck presentation. Creating business cards and leaflets to hand out, or hosting promotional giveaways on the day are great ideas to get customers excited.

Spend some time thinking of fun and unique ways to ensure you stand out. For example, quirky or cheeky phrases on napkins and packaging will get your products noticed. And if seasonal drinks are your focus, look into getting custom made cups or holders made for customers to take away as a souvenir.

  1. Keep on top of Christmas market risks

If you’re planning on attending a Christmas market with your mobile catering vehicle then you’ll certainly have to conduct a risk assessment as part of your application. For further details on how to do this then read our recent ‘How to’ guide for risk assessments.

Areas you’ll need to look at include the potential for slips and trips in icy conditions, scalds and burns from hot food and drinks, staff illness and cleaning, food hygiene and food poisoning, and even fires and explosions! The list goes on!

Accidents in your catering vehicle can cause injury, damage or loss to members of the public or their property. Catering public liability insurance is essential if you want to protect your business from the substantial costs of such incidents.

  1. Strike while the iron is hot

A successful Christmas market season can set you up for a great year ahead, if you act quickly that is! One of the best things about this season from a food catering perspective is that diets tend to go out of the window as people look ahead to their big Christmas dinners and stockings filled with chocolate.

So those people who would usually be strict with their diet and might avoid food trucks while out and about are more likely to give in at this time of year. There really isn’t a better time for a food business!

Christmas market

  1. Expand your reach beyond Christmas markets

However, don’t just focus on Christmas markets. There are lots of other winter opportunities to be had.

  • Christmas party season – Throughout the month of December, many towns and cities will see large groups of friends and work colleagues enjoying a night out together. Set up near popular party locations to make sure of catching some extra custom. Another idea is to offer your services to party organisers who might be looking to bring something a bit different to their big event. Check out our guide on how to cater for 100 guests on a budget for tips and tricks to implement.
  • Late-night shoppers – The mad dash to buy presents in the run up to Christmas Day can leave shoppers in a hurry. Tempting them with a quick and easy option on their shopping route could really help your bottom line.
  • New Year’s Eve revellers – The party doesn’t stop with Christmas. New Year's Eve is one of the biggest nights of the year for many party people. And at the end of a heavy night a food truck could be a very welcome sight.
  • Sports events – Over the Christmas period, many sports teams play extra fixtures. And what fan doesn’t want to treat themselves to a few drinks and some tasty food after a great match?

Best Christmas markets around the country

While most Christmas markets were cancelled in 2020 due to Covid concerns, the majority of markets seem to be on-track to return in 2021 and beyond. As we head towards Christmas, make sure you keep up to date with what’s on and what’s not by visiting the organiser’s websites.

If you’re planning on visiting a great Christmas market this year to check out the competition for 2022, then try one of these around the UK.

Winchester Cathedral Christmas Market, England

Opening dates: 19th November – 22nd December

There are few better places to get yourself in the Christmas spirit than at this bustling market in the shadow of the stunning Winchester Cathedral. With over 100 market stalls filled with high quality exhibitors you’ll be in good company.

When you’re not checking out the competition, hire skates and whizz around the covered ice rink. And listen out for the heavenly tones of the cathedral’s choir services throughout December.

Cardiff Christmas Market, Wales

Opening dates: 11th November – 23rd December

Running for over 20 years now, the Cardiff organisers really know how to put on a good show. More than 200 stalls fill the pedestrian areas of the city centre in this glorious Christmas showcase.

Edinburgh’s Christmas, Scotland

Opening dates: 20th November – 4th January 2022

Edinburgh hosts an array of Christmas events suitable for all the family. From mulled Irn Bru to vegan pigs in blankets the traditional Christmas Market at East Princes Street Gardens offers some very un-traditional treats!

Belfast Christmas Market, Northern Ireland

Opening dates: 20th November – 23rd December

Get a taste for international as well as local delicacies at this award-winning Christmas event.

Get catering public liability insurance from Mobilers

Specialising in areas such as catering public liability insurance, our team can offer you a range of policy benefits such as:

  • Instant cover
  • Full fire cover
  • Fixtures and fittings cover
  • Mirror bonus available

Get a quote for catering public liability insurance from Mobilers today.


Frequently asked questions

How can I make my food stall appealing at a Christmas market?

To make your food stall appealing at a Christmas market, you need to create an inviting and festive atmosphere. Start by decorating your stall with Christmas lights, garlands, and ornaments. This will instantly catch the attention of passersby and make them curious about what you have to offer. Consider using a themed tablecloth or banner with holiday designs to further enhance the festive feel. Additionally, make sure your stall is well-lit so that customers can easily see your food options. Displaying samples or pictures of your dishes can also entice customers to try your food.

How can I prepare my business for demand at a busy Christmas market?

Running a food stall at a busy Christmas market can be an exciting and profitable venture, but it also requires careful planning and preparation. To ensure that your business is ready to meet the high demand, there are a few key steps you can take. First, make sure you have enough stock and ingredients on hand to handle the increased volume of customers. This might mean ordering in larger quantities or prepping in advance. Second, consider hiring additional staff to help with the increased workload. Having extra hands on deck will not only help with serving customers quickly but also allow you to take breaks when needed. Lastly, make sure your equipment is in good working order and properly maintained.

Should I hire more catering staff to prepare for a busy Christmas market?

Preparing for a busy Christmas market can be quite overwhelming, especially when you're running a food stall. With the influx of customers and the demand for delicious treats, it's essential to ensure that you have enough staff to handle the rush. Hiring more catering staff can be a smart move to ensure smooth operations and customer satisfaction. With additional hands on deck, you can minimise waiting times and provide prompt service. This will not only help you cater to a larger number of customers but also leave a lasting impression on them. So, if you want to make the most out of the bustling Christmas market, don't hesitate to expand your team and hire more catering staff.

Should I create new menu items for my Christmas market stall?

As a food stall owner, it's always important to keep your menu fresh and exciting, especially during the festive season. Christmas markets are a great opportunity to attract new customers and make a lasting impression. Offering something unique and festive will not only draw in curious shoppers but also give your regular customers something to look forward to. Consider incorporating traditional holiday flavors like peppermint, gingerbread, or cranberry into your dishes. Whether it's a decadent Christmas-themed dessert or a savory winter-inspired dish, adding new menu items will help you stand out and create a buzz around your food stall.

How should I use social media to boost customers at my Christmas market food stall?

With so many people using platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, it's the perfect way to reach a wider audience and generate buzz for your delicious offerings. Start by creating eye-catching posts with mouthwatering photos of your food stall and the delectable treats you'll be serving up. Use enticing captions to get people excited about visiting your stall. Don't forget to include important details like your stall location and operating hours to make it easy for potential customers to find you. Engage with your followers by responding to comments and messages promptly, and consider running special promotions or giveaways exclusively for your social media followers to encourage them to visit your food stall.

Share this on: