Starting a burger van business in the UK can be an exciting and profitable venture. However, it requires careful planning, compliance with legal requirements, and sound knowledge of food hygiene and safety practices.
This guide will walk you through the key steps, from deciding what type of business to run, to obtaining the necessary qualifications and certificates, to successfully operating your burger van business.
Understanding the burger van business
The landscape of the burger van business
The burger catering industry in the UK is a booming sector, currently valued at over £7.3 billion, according to the Mintel report (2022). With the increasing popularity of food trucks and the widespread demand for convenient yet delectable food options, venturing into a burger van business can be a lucrative endeavour.
Burger vans have become a popular sight at various events, markets, fairs, festivals, and even on the roadside. They cater to a wide range of customers, including drivers, workers, and passers-by. The flexibility and mobility of the business model make it an attractive choice for entrepreneurs with a love for cooked food and business.
The role of a burger van owner
As the owner of a burger van, you'll be responsible for everything from sourcing ingredients to preparing, cooking, and serving the food.
Depending on your business model, you might specialise in a specific type of burger or offer a variety of options, including different types of patties, buns, toppings, and sauces. Some burger van owners also choose to sell side dishes and beverages.
Identifying your target market
Before you start your burger van business, it's crucial to identify your target market. A clear understanding of your potential customers can guide your decisions about the type of food to sell, the ideal locations for your van, and the best strategies for attracting and retaining customers.
Types of customers
Your target market could include a variety of customer types, including:
- Visitors to organised events like festivals, fairs, and music events
- Customers in food markets or business districts
- Attendees at sporting events or social gatherings
- Individuals with specific dietary needs, such as vegetarian/vegan, halal, or gluten-free
Factors to consider
When defining your target market, consider factors like the types of burgers you plan to make, your price points, your competition, and your brand identity. Each of these factors can significantly influence your business strategy and success.
Necessary equipment for a burger van business
Starting a burger van business requires a range of equipment, from a well-equipped vehicle to food preparation tools and serving utensils. Below, we outline some of the essential equipment you'll need to start your burger van business.
Your vehicle will likely be your most significant initial expense. Options range from a fully-equipped burger van to a more budget-friendly burger trailer. Depending on your choice, you might also need to invest in built-in cooking facilities and a fridge.
Food preparation and cooking equipment
To prepare and cook your burgers, you'll need a variety of equipment, such as chopping boards, kitchen knives, a food processor, a frying pan, a grill, a fryer, and various cooking and serving utensils.
Serving and eating equipment
Consider what you'll need to serve food, such as takeaway containers, trays, napkins, cups for beverages, and bags for larger orders.
Other accessories and equipment
Additional accessories might include sauce dispensers, a cash register and Point of Sales system, rubbish bins, a sanitising station, and cleaning equipment.
Pricing strategy for your burger van business
Setting the right price for your burgers is crucial for the success of your business. Your pricing strategy should take into account the cost of your ingredients, your overhead costs, the location of your van, and your target market.
Typically, the cost of your stock should be no more than 30%-40% of your food sale price. This means that to estimate your food stock costs, you first need to estimate the price of your menu and the number of menu sales you plan to make each month.
Food safety and hygiene in a burger van business
Maintaining high standards of food safety and hygiene is paramount when running a burger van business. This involves implementing a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan, conducting risk assessments, and ensuring all staff have undergone food hygiene training.
Food hygiene certificate
Obtaining a level 2 food hygiene certificate is a crucial step in running a burger van business. It's absolutely essential for everyone involved in food handling to receive adequate training pertaining to food hygiene that matches their specific job responsibilities. It's not just a good practice, but also a legal obligation.
For everyone stepping into the food industry, being educated on food hygiene isn't just an option—it's a prerequisite before they can even start their work. So, it's more than important—it's a must. Let's make our food industry safer and more reliable by sticking to these regulations.
The recommended course for burger van owners is the Level 2 Food Safety and Hygiene for Catering. This course covers all aspects of food safety, including food safety regulations, responsibilities of the staff, contamination, food allergies, food deliveries and storage, personal hygiene, cleaning, pest control, and supporting staff.
Compliance with food safety legislation
Compliance with food safety legislation is crucial for the successful operation of a burger van business. The Food Safety Act 1990 and the Food Hygiene Regulations 2006 outline the legal obligations of all food-related businesses to ensure food they prepare and serve is done so in a safe and hygienic manner.
Why do you need a hygiene certificate for burger vans?
Operating a burger van business involves more than just cooking and selling food; it also requires adherence to health and safety regulations. With this comes the necessity of a hygiene certificate for your operation.
So, why do you need a hygiene certificate for burger vans? This certificate is a crucial aspect that signifies your commitment to maintaining high standards of cleanliness and food safety.
Food-related businesses are potential sources of foodborne illnesses if not properly managed. A hygiene certificate ensures that you have the necessary knowledge and training to prevent these occurrences.
It demonstrates that you understand the importance of proper food storage, preparation, handling, and disposal in order to prevent cross-contamination and the spread of foodborne illnesses.
Additionally, having a hygiene certificate can enhance your business reputation. Customers are more likely to trust and patronise burger vans that uphold stringent hygiene standards. It gives them confidence in the food they’re consuming, knowing that it has been prepared under sanitary conditions.
Legal requirements for a burger van business
Running a burger van business involves several legal requirements, including registering your business, obtaining a street trading licence, and ensuring you have the correct insurance.
Failure to comply with these requirements can lead to penalties, including fines, business closure, and in severe cases, imprisonment.
It’s essential to get your business officially registered with HMRC and your local council. You’ll want to get this done a minimum of 28 days prior to the grand opening of your venture, and guess what?
It's a process you can conveniently do online. And here's the best part - it doesn't cost you a penny! Plus, there's no chance of your registration being declined.
Isn't that great? So, don't delay, get on it right away!
Street trading licence
If you plan to operate your burger van on the street, you will need a street trading licence. The cost of a street trading licence can vary, depending on your local council.
You can expect to pay approximately £75 to apply for your licence and may then have to pay weekly or monthly fees to trade. Contact your local council to find out the cost of a street trading licence for your specific area.
There are several types of insurance you may require, product liability insurance, public liability insurance, business vehicle insurance, and contents insurance. The cost of these can vary greatly depending on your coverage level and insurance provider.
Advantages and disadvantages of owning a burger van
Like all businesses, owning a food truck business comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, a burger van business can offer excellent profit potential, low start-up costs, flexibility, and the opportunity to be your own boss.
On the flip side, running a burger van business can be demanding and challenging. It requires long hours, hard work, and a significant amount of planning and organisation.
There are also risks involved, including fluctuating income, the potential for food safety issues, and the need to comply with a host of regulations and requirements.
Planning for success
Successful operation of a burger van business requires careful planning and preparation. This includes developing a detailed business plan, conducting market research, securing financing, and choosing the right location for your business.
It also involves marketing your brand effectively, building strong relationships with customers, and continuously improving your products and services.
Further training for a burger van business
Apart from the food hygiene certificate, there are a variety of other training courses that can be beneficial for anyone in the mobile catering business. These include:
- Food allergen awareness training: This training is essential for anyone in the catering industry to understand the main allergens and to help with customer queries and ensure their safety.
- Basic health and safety training: This course covers all aspects of health and safety in the workplace and helps ensure all employees follow any rules put in place.
- Level 2 HACCP training for catering and retail: This course is suitable for anyone who needs knowledge in putting together an effective food safety management system.
Are burger vans profitable?
The profitability of burger vans, like any business, largely depends on strategic planning, location, and the quality of products and service. Are burger vans profitable? Yes, they can be.
Mobile food businesses like burger vans often have lower overhead costs compared to traditional brick-and-mortar restaurants. Additionally, they offer flexibility in terms of location and working hours.
However, the profitability is also contingent on several factors. For instance, the choice of location plays a crucial role — areas with high footfall like parks, events, or tourist spots can yield a high return on investment.
The uniqueness and quality of the burgers can also attract a loyal customer base, enhancing profitability. Moreover, managing expenses like fuel, maintenance, food supplies, permits, and licences is essential to ensure profitability.
In essence, while burger vans have the potential to be profitable, the success hinges on effective business strategies and operations management.
To sum up, starting a burger van business in the UK can be a rewarding endeavour, but it requires careful planning, compliance with legal requirements, and a commitment to maintaining high standards of food safety and hygiene.
By understanding the qualifications and guidelines outlined in this guide, you'll be well on your way to running a successful burger van business.