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Summer challenges for market traders in the UK: Ensuring food quality and safety

As the nation gets ready for another great British summer, we can all look forward to a busy season of fun-filled outdoor events. Catering market traders who specialise in outdoor cuisine are particularly sought after at this time of year.

But summer comes with its own set of challenges for those looking to ensure the highest standards of food quality and safety.

Overview of market stalls

Whether this is your first summer in business or you’re a seasoned market trader, it’s easy to become distracted by the everyday demands of a mobile catering operation. That’s why the team at Mobilers has written this handy guide to remind you of the summer challenges you might encounter. And lots of tips on how to deal with them.

A key way to keep your business on track throughout the period is by having the right market trader liability insurance for your mobile catering needs.

The team at Mobilers are always ready and willing to guide you through issues such as what market trader liability insurance you need.

Need some help finding the best cities in the UK to set up shop? Take a look at our dedicated post about where you may want to consider spending an extended period of time for higher footfall.

Top tips for meeting the challenges of summer

Keeping everyone cool in the heat

On sweltering hot days, it can get dangerously hot for staff working in a busy mobile kitchen. Dehydration and even heat stroke are a particular hazard as the temperatures start to rise.

To keep everyone at a comfortable temperature remember the following.

1. Search out the shade

When you’re already slaving over a hot stove, the summer sun beating down on your market stall is the last thing you need. If you can, set up out of direct sunlight or in a shady area. And make sure you’ve got a decent-sized gazebo to keep the sun off.

This will also keep any queuing customers more comfortable and allow them to see what you have to offer more easily. It might also encourage them to eat and rest nearby, and even come back for more!

2. Consider the time of day

If you can, try to limit activities during the hottest part of the day. However, since lunchtime is typically the busiest time for food stalls, this might not always be possible. However, making even slight adjustments to set-up times and the length of shifts could make a big difference.

3. Cut back on heat-producing appliances

Obviously, you’ll need appliances to cook food and keep supplies chilled. But if there’s anything you’re not using, then turn it off whenever you can. Even strings of cute fairy lights can produce extra heat you don’t need. Check out our gas safety tips tips for food trucks for a few additional tips.

As well as keeping everywhere that bit cooler you’re also saving on energy costs and doing your bit for the environment.

4. Keep staff well hydrated

In order to prevent dehydration and other health problems arising from the heat it’s important for staff to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Even before shifts start everyone has to have had enough to drink. Have water freely available so staff can refill water bottles and take regular drinks of water.

If you have to, set a timer to remind people it’s time to take a water break.

5. Take a break

Taking regular breaks to cool off will keep staff happy and focused. And help prevent heat-related illness.

6. Summer-friendly uniform

Not every market trader will have a catering uniform for staff but it’s a good idea to think about. As well as helping you stand out from the crowd and marketing your business, it’s a good way to know that your staff are kept safe while working.

In the summer heat staff may be tempted to break out the vest-tops, shorts, and flip-flops. But it’s important to maintain proper etiquette and attire when working on a food stall. Working with open flames, or near equipment that generates hot liquids, you’ll need clothing that protects from heat, splatters, and spills.

If you have a uniform, make sure it’s summer-friendly by focusing on lightweight, breathable fabrics to keep cool. But make sure it still guards against any kitchen hazards.

We also suggest providing shoes with skid-resistant soles to protect against slips, trips, and falls.

7. Take care of ventilation

Even on an open-air market stall, if there’s no breeze moving through the kitchen it can get stiflingly hot. Depending on the layout of your food stall, you might be able to get a cross-breeze going. Or consider investing in some solar-powered fans.

They’ll give you all some relief without having yet-another appliance to keep on and pay for.

8. Knowing the signs of heat exhaustion

Working in a hot kitchen in warm weather can put your staff at risk of heat exhaustion. According to the NHS, the signs of heat exhaustion include:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness and disorientation
  • Loss of appetite and nausea
  • Excessive sweating
  • Pale, clammy skin
  • Arm, leg and stomach cramps
  • Rapid breathing or pulse
  • Body temperature of 38 C or above
  • Excessive thirst

Provided the person is cooled down within 30 minutes, heat exhaustion isn’t usually serious. However, there is a danger that it can turn into heatstroke, which needs to be treated as a medical emergency.

Signs of heatstroke include:

  • Still feeling unwell after 30 minutes of cooling off
  • Not sweating even if hot
  • Very high body temperature above 40 C
  • Rapid breathing or difficulty breathing
  • Confusion, disorientation or difficulty standing or walking
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness or becoming unresponsive

If someone is not treated quickly, heatstroke can be very serious. If you or any of your employees or customers exhibit these symptoms, then call for medical help immediately.

As well as having the right market trader liability insurance, we also recommend joining the Nationwide Caterers Association (NCASS).

One of the cheapest and most popular ways to get started in mobile catering is the market stall. But you’ll want to get the right advice before you put in all that time and money into your new venture.

NCASS has lots of useful articles and information on the advantages and disadvantages to market stall trading.

Take a look at their website to explore all those factors before you commit.

Stormy weather risks for market stalls

On a gorgeous summer’s day catering outdoors can seem like a dream for many. But it’s very rare you’ll get weeks of perfect weather in this country. Summer time weather can be unpredictable and it’s never wise to underestimate the UK climate.

A show or event can take a turn for the worse if the wind starts blowing and the rain is coming down in torrential sheets. A market stall doesn’t always offer the best protection if the rain starts coming from the sides and even beneath!

Compared to a catering trailer or food truck, a market stall’s gazebo doesn’t offer the greatest protection from the elements. There are also other issues that such summer weather can cause.

If the event is being held on grass, then heavy rain can also lead to mud. Which a market stall has only limited protection against.

For example, what about if you take your stall to a big music festival like Glastonbury?

When the rain comes down the mud here can take on legendary proportions and may even rise above the stall floor. So, rather than preparing and selling your excellent food you might find yourself desperately searching around for pallets or anything else to keep the mud at bay.

And mud doesn’t just look awful, it can be a big health hazard for any food business. If the land where the event is being held is also used for livestock during the rest of the year, there’s also the potential for dangerous bacteria in the mud to end up in your kitchen.

It’s not just the weather that can play havoc with your business. Even the best made market stall gazebos will only survive so many summers being constantly packed and unpacked. But while they don’t have the same durability as a catering trailer or food truck they still offer a lot of benefits to the mobile caterer.

If you’re planning on grabbing a slice of the UK festivals catering pie this summer then read our recent guide to the risks you could encounter. It’s also got a rundown of the best UK festivals worth visiting if you’re not too sure which to go for.

Millions of people attend UK music festivals every year. And while huge events like Glastonbury, Reading, Leeds, and the Isle of Wight festivals attract big crowds, there are many hundreds of other smaller festivals that are also well attended. But make sure you have market trader liability insurance before you head off.

Protecting against insects and other pests

On a wonderful mid-summer’s day when you’re all set up, you’ll be looking forward to serving up your delicious food to lots of hungry customers. Unfortunately, all too often as the queue begins to build, you’ll notice a host of unwelcome visitors too.

Yes, you’ve got it, a swarm of flies want in on the action.

Even just one fly buzzing around your food stall is enough to put people off ordering from you. But even more important than that, flies are potential carriers of a number of different diseases such as salmonella.

Any one of which could end up making a customer very sick, and have serious repercussions for your catering business.

But don’t despair, we’ve got some seriously handy tips for creating a fly-free zone in and around your food stall.

  • Make sure any bin you use in your food stall has a closed top to keep away flies.
  • Regularly clean and sanitise bins between uses.
  • Follow a well-designed cleaning schedule.
  • Keep food well covered, even during service.
  • Invest in a fly killer/zapper.
  • Consider ditching the ‘sauce table’, this can be a big attraction for bugs.
  • Take care with chemical sprays that kill flies. You need to make sure they’re suitable for use within the space. Also make sure food and equipment are covered before spraying. Consider non-chemical alternatives, such as glue traps.

It’s not just flies that can be more of a hazard in summer. Vermin such as rats and mice can also cause problems for mobile food businesses. The London Borough of Bromley shares some Trading Standards advice on pest control should you need it.

Waste management is an important part of any mobile caterer’s business. Check out our Mobilers guide to bins and waste to make sure you’re recycling what you can and disposing of waste in the proper way.

Tweaking your menu for summer specials

A man selling burgers at a BBQ stall

Whatever the time of year, you want your menu to be suited to the climate and what customers want. Heavy meals aren’t always the first choice when the heat is on, so you might need to think carefully about adapting your menu to attract the summer crowd.

So, think fresh and light. And make sure to take advantage of all those seasonal goodies on offer.

If you’re looking to design a cool summertime menu then barbequed or grilled meats, seafood and vegetables are always popular.

You can’t go wrong with dishes like salads, fresh fruit salsas and oil-based dressings. Rather than large, heavy helpings why not try focusing on smaller bites?

It’s also a good idea to choose menu items that will not only stay safe, but will also serve well in summer conditions. Consider avoiding those dishes that are most sensitive to temperature and pose the highest risk for foodborne illness. Or those which could suffer a breakdown in the texture or flavour.

For example, raw seafood or dairy-based dishes don’t always stand up so well when you’re having difficulty keeping everything cool.

Running a mobile bar from your market stall this summer?

Then read our Mobilers guide to cocktails and mocktails and come up with some refreshing additions to your summer drinks menu.

Maintaining food safety

With a lack of space and sometimes limited facilities, maintaining food safety can pose a significant challenge to food stalls in the summer. It’s vital that all staff are working with safety and hygiene as their top priority at all times.

Here are 10 top tips that are worth remembering.

1. Know the risks

Anyone working with food needs to have the appropriate training to be able to recognise food safety risks and how to prevent them. For example, the most common cause of food poisoning, campylobacter, can easily be spread by poor handling of poultry, meat and dairy products.

While other bacteria such as listeria and E. coli tend to circulate more freely during the summer months. These can be found even on the most unlikely foods, such as mixed salad leaves.

There’s lots of useful training available online to help you and your staff. For example, if you run a burger van then take a look at this useful food safety guide focused on this type of food business.

Any guide is likely to advise you to have market trader liability insurance to protect your business.

2. Take care to avoid cross-contamination

Cross-contamination between raw ingredients and food that’s ready to eat can happen at any time, whether directly or via shared surfaces and utensils.

So, the correct food hygiene procedures need to be followed at all times. This is particularly the case when cooking outdoors with limited space, when such mistakes are easy to make.

To avoid such contamination:

  • Always store raw food separately from prepared foods.
  • Use the correct chopping board, utensils and plates.
  • Wash hands thoroughly after handling raw meat before touching anything that’s ready to be served.

3. Keep food properly chilled

While being outdoors can make exposure to harmful germs and bacteria more likely, in the heat of summer this can become even more so.

As we mentioned earlier, when it comes to food stalls in the summer, temperature control can be one of the biggest challenges. To help keep food chilled, only take it out of the fridge when it needs to be used.

That way it’s in the warm air of the kitchen for the shortest time possible.

Keeping a careful record of fridge temperatures and not overfilling the fridge will also help minimise the risk of bacteria multiplying.

4. Cook food correctly

Creating a tasty summer treat with real appeal is what mobile catering is all about. But it should also go without saying that this needs to be done at the correct temperature and for the right amount of time to keep customers safe.

With different foods requiring different temperatures and lengths of time to be cooked properly, your staff need to be well trained.

Digital food thermometers are also an important tool to check that food has reached the appropriate temperature.

The challenge doesn’t stop once the food has been cooked. Unless it’s eaten immediately, it needs to be kept at the correct temperature until it's ready to be served.

5. Keep everywhere clean

One of the great benefits for customers who visit food stalls is that they can see their food being prepared in front of them. But being so customer-facing means that any drop in cleaning standards will soon be noticed and they’ll go elsewhere.

No catering business can survive such reputational damage.

Cleaning is vital not only to comply with all food hygiene regulations, but also to keep everywhere clear and tidy. While this isn’t always an easy task in the fast-paced, high-pressured environment of mobile catering, it is still important.

To ensure the very highest levels of health and hygiene you’ll need to invest in regular training for your staff.

Both to recap on the essentials but also to cover any new procedures or changes to working practices. For example, if you’ve got a new piece of kitchen tech then are there any special cleaning procedures that need to be followed?

6. Provide hand washing facilities

For anyone working in the catering industry, thoroughly washing hands before and after handling food should be second nature. Staff with unclean hands pose a significant threat to customer safety. Alongside signage and training to remind everyone of good handwashing procedures you’ll obviously need to provide the facilities for them to do so.

Keep wet wipes and hand sanitisers nearby, in case it's not always possible to access a sink.

7. Keep the fridge well maintained

If your fridge isn’t properly maintained then it’s unlikely to keep food chilled to the right temperature. Creating a potential food safety disaster. Make sure to put together an appropriate inspection and maintenance plan for this vital piece of equipment.

8. Keep the fridge door closed

Repeatedly opening and shutting the fridge door allows cool air to escape and lets the summer heat creep in. To maintain the correct temperature inside the fridge, try to consolidate steps by getting everything you might need out at once.

9. Get rid of the cardboard

Materials such as cardboard, paper and Styrofoam soak up cool air and also promote mould growth. Whenever possible use metal or polycarbonate storage containers instead.

10. Take care with food deliveries

When food is delivered, you’ll want to make sure that it arrives with you in a safe condition. Check that delivered foods come in at the right temperature. And put away temperature sensitive foods straight away.

Food that’s just been delivered shouldn’t be left hanging around.

Get market trader liability insurance from Mobilers

A young woman selling cake to an elderly woman

Specialising in areas such as market trader liability insurance, whether for indoor or outdoor venues, our team can offer you a range of policy benefits such as:

  • Instant cover
  • One day event cover
  • Full 12-month policies

Speak to one of our friendly team and get a quote for market trader liability insurance from Mobilers today.

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