A crisp crust, tasty tomatoes, hot melted cheese, and a dazzling array of delectable toppings – there’s nothing more mouth-watering than a good slice of pizza.
This staple of Italian – via American – cuisine has been hugely popular in Britain for decades now, and features in the nation’s top five favourite takeaways. So, if you’re chewing over ideas of how to make some dough in the catering trade, a mobile pizza business could be for you.
What do you need to know about both the culinary and the business sides of the mobile pizza trade? We give you the inside info on everything from mobile pizza ovens to marketing to catering van insurance.
Planning your business
Before you can start making a crust, there’s a lot of preparation to do.
Begin by checking if the idea suits your lifestyle, and your goals. Are you the type of person who loves dealing with people at busy events? Are you actually interested in making pizza? Or would a mobile coffee business suit your interests more?
If you’re already in the catering trade, you’ll know all about the anti-social hours and the hard-physical work involved. You’ll also know about the joy of being your own boss, the buzz of a great event, and the satisfaction of seeing your business grow.
If you’re new to the mobile catering trade, ask others in similar lines of work for their tips – though be careful about approaching direct competitors, who might see you as a threat! Figure out the best cities in the UK that will help your mobile pizza business thrive.
Use your research to inform a business plan. This is essential if you need a loan for start-up costs, such as buying a catering van. Even if you don’t, it’s a good way to clarify your thinking about what you want to achieve, and how you’re going to get there.
A good business plan will include elements such as a competitor analysis, a marketing plan, a timeline and the things that you should know before becoming a market trader. There’s plenty of information, templates, and support online.
It will also include a SWOT analysis of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Is there any training you could take to help you overcome any of the weaknesses you might identify? Do you need to buy in extra support, eg book-keeping?
This is also a good moment to research catering van insurance. Mobilers has over 20 years’ experience in arranging cover for everything from food trucks to pizza vans to ice cream trucks and market stalls, and our team would be happy to help you find the right policy.
One of the fabulous things about pizza is its versatility. Country fair? A wood-fired pizza will go down a treat. Informal wedding? Guests old and young will love tucking in. Music festival? Pizza is great for lining the stomach before hitting the bar and dancing the night away. This may even give you ideas on starting up your own mobile bar.
So, there is a huge range of venues and events that might welcome your van.
Will you pitch yourself towards private events, such as weddings and corporate days? Or public events, such as festivals and shows? That affects your pricing.
If selling pizza at festivals appeals to you, think carefully about the type and size of the event, and the location of your pitch. For large-scale events, you will need to apply the best part of a year in advance. There’ll be plenty of footfall – but also lots of competition. A smaller occasion might be a better way of getting started.
Be aware of different pricing structures: you might be charged a fixed fee, a percentage of your profits, or a mixture of both. Make sure you know whether utilities such as electricity, water and waste disposal are included in your pitch fee.
Whichever type of event you choose, you’ll need catering van insurance which includes public liability cover. Event organisers may ask to see a copy of your policy document to make sure you’re covered.
Food safety and hygiene
To run a food business, you need to comply with hygiene and safety standards. The Food Standards Agency is the best source of information on every aspect, from training and certificates to allergens and refrigeration.
All food businesses need to register with their local authority, ideally 28 days before beginning trading. Your application can’t be refused, but you must allow food inspectors to visit your premises without giving you notice. If they have hygiene or safety concerns, they can order you to close.
These inspectors will issue your business a rating between one and five stars. In Wales and Northern Ireland, it’s obligatory to display this; it’s not necessary in England but is highly encouraged.
Plus, a five-star rating is a great advert for your business, letting your customers know that your pizza is not only tasty, but of a high standard, too.
Choosing your pizza oven
There are many, many different types of pizza – and almost as many ovens in which to make them.
One consideration is the type of fuel you use. Wood-fired ovens give pizzas a lovely artisan look and taste, which will go down well at high-end events – and fetch you a higher price. However, they take up more space, and it takes a while to fire them up – though eventually, they will reach higher temperatures than many gas ovens.
Gas ovens tend to be more efficient, easier to control, and capable of reaching high temperatures very quickly and cooking pizzas in no time at all – great if you’re after a fast turnover. They also tend to take up less space, so are a good option for smaller trailers or catering vans.
However, gas ovens require good safety precautions so reading our blog on gas safety for food trucks will provide you with a few extra tips and tricks.
Electric ovens are similar, but check that all events you are attending will offer you an electric hook-up. Otherwise, you need to invest in a generator, too.
What size oven will you pick? Too small, and you’ll lose custom as people won’t want to queue. Too big, and you’ll have no room for you and your staff in your van.
There are numerous types of oven on the market, so do your research, check out the specs and prices, ask around – and choose the one that’s right for you. Many retailers offer good after sales care, which could be especially welcome if you’re new to the game.
Alternatively, you could buy a trailer or vehicle that’s ready fitted with a pizza oven. Whatever option you pick, make sure you get it covered with suitable catering van insurance.
Deciding on your menu
Now this has got to be the fun part! What types of pizza will you offer?
For the base, there’s sourdough, thin or deep crust, flatbread and cheese-stuffed, to name just a few. This is a major decision, as it will determine what type of oven you buy.
For the toppings, you can have a lot of fun. It’s a good idea to include the old favourites: apparently, the UK’s favourite pizza topping is mushroom, and there are six others that are enjoyed by more than half of the UK: onions, ham, peppers, chicken, pepperoni, and tomato.
How about offering a signature pizza of your own invention? If the event is a personal one such as a wedding, you could even ask the bride and groom to help you design one for their special occasion.
Vegan pizza, using no cheese or dairy-free alternatives, is also a great addition to the menu, particularly if you’re planning on catering at festivals or other events with a young audience.
And for the low-carb crowd, you can even offer cauliflower-crust pizzas!
Will you sell any sides? Doing so allows you to provide full meals and boost your profits, but storage and serving space is a consideration, too. Garlic bread is a must, but dough balls, salads, corn on the cob, and cakes are also popular add-ons.
How about drinks? You’ll need a licence to sell alcohol, but a fridge full of cold soft drinks will be a definite draw on a hot summer’s day.
So get thinking, cooking, tasting and testing. This is one element of your budding business where your friends will be delighted to help!
Stock and supplies
Whether you’re plumping for cheap-and-cheerful Margheritas or gourmet versions made from only the finest organic ingredients, you’ll need to establish good links with reliable suppliers.
Depending on the size of your van, you might prefer to do much of the preparation work in a commercial kitchen before loading up your vehicle. Dough mixing, cheese grating and topping preparation can all be done in advance, leaving you with the relatively simple task of assembling the finished product.
Make sure you consider how you’ll store everything. If you’re attending a four-day festival, how will you keep your stock fresh throughout? And can you access more supplies if you run out?
Remember: you can add cover for stock onto your catering van insurance policy.
Marketing your brand
Choosing a popular cuisine such as pizza means that there will be high demand for your service – but also that you’ll face stiff competition.
So how do you ensure your business gets a generous slice of the custom? You need to establish your brand and market it.
A simple yet memorable name is a great start – perhaps some of the pizza puns we’ve included in this article will inspire you (or just make you groan with their cheesiness)!
Invest in some graphic design for a great logo, and get menus and staff T-shirts or aprons printed. Signwriting can ensure your van catches customers’ eyes!
Perhaps you’ve got a USP – a unique selling point – that sets you apart from your rivals? Maybe your van is quirky: a horsebox, a converted ambulance or similar. Or maybe it’s the type of pizza you sell: vegan, organic, or extra cheesy.
Then you need to market your new brand. Social media is a cheap way to start: set up a page for your business, and upload some photos and videos. Your smartphone is your best tool here – informal snaps, perhaps of you trying out new pizza toppings, work well to engage your audience.
You could print up some flyers to send to prospective businesses, and set up a website, too. It all helps you look professional and approachable.
Finally, how about drumming up business through some promotions? Whether it’s 10% off all orders, extra toppings, or a free can of drink, it’s a way of letting customers know they’re getting a great deal.
Top tips for a mobile pizza business
Finally, here are a few pointers to help get your mobile pizza business on the road to success.
- Do you need a business partner? If you’re a chef, would it make sense to find a partner with a head for figures – or vice versa?
- Take care in setting prices. Benchmark yourself against your competitors, but don’t underestimate your costs – including that of your time.
- Don’t bite off more than you can chew in terms of booking events, as you could burn out quickly. Retaining workers is always hard in the catering trade, so remember that you might find yourself short-staffed.
- Consider contingency plans in case of bad weather. Will your pizza sell well in blazing sunshine? How about heavy rain? Can you provide any shelter, such as a gazebo, to hungry customers?
- What forms of payment will you accept? Cash, card or phone? If you can’t accept one of the main forms of payment, it’s best to indicate this clearly on your signage to avoid tension with customers when they get to the front of the queue.
Yes, there’s plenty to think about – but you’ll soon find it easy-pizza-y! Make ours a large mushroom with extra olives, please!
Get a quote from Mobilers today
At Mobilers, we arrange catering van insurance for all sorts of mobile eateries, and we’d love to help you roll out your business idea.
We can arrange cover for catering vans up to a value of £200,000, plus cover for your fixtures and fittings. We cover everything from ice cream trikes to jiffy vans, searching for premiums on our customers’ behalf. So why not consider starting an ice cream business as well? We share our top tips over on our blog.
Policy benefits can also include instant cover, full fire cover, exclusive discounts, and flexible payment options.
Get a quote for catering van insurance today.
Frequently asked questions
Are pizza vans profitable?
Pizza vans can be a highly profitable business venture if done right. With the growing popularity of street food and the love for pizza, a pizza van can attract customers from all walks of life. The key to profitability lies in offering high-quality, delicious pizzas that stand out from the competition.
Additionally, choosing strategic locations and attending events where there is a high footfall can significantly boost sales. By keeping overhead costs low and focusing on customer satisfaction, pizza vans have the potential to generate substantial profits.
Should I offer vegan pizza at my mobile pizza catering business?
Offering vegan pizza at your mobile pizza catering business can be a game-changer. With the growing popularity of plant-based diets, there is a high demand for vegan options. By including vegan pizza on your menu, you are not only catering to a specific group of customers but also attracting new ones who are looking for healthier and more sustainable food choices.
Vegan pizza can be just as delicious and satisfying as traditional pizza, and by offering this option, you are showing that you are a business that values inclusivity and caters to different dietary preferences.
What certificates do I need for mobile catering?
Firstly, you'll need a Food Hygiene Certificate, also known as a Level 2 Food Safety Certificate. This demonstrates that you have the necessary knowledge and understanding of food hygiene practices to ensure the safety of your customers.
Additionally, a Gas Safety Certificate is required if your mobile catering unit uses gas appliances. This certificate ensures that your equipment is safe and meets the necessary standards.