The Great Outdoors

Everybody loves the sunshine which makes summer the ideal time to take your business outside. Getting out and about can increase your profits by creating an entirely new and potentially very lucrative revenue stream without significantly increasing your overheads. To do so, savvy operators should make the most of their existing assets utilising what is already available to them. Whether this means literally going 'al fresco' - in the street, garden or other outdoor space - to providing outside catering services such as corporate hospitality or event catering. You may find that investing in additional equipment or staff will support the growth of your off-site enterprises long-term, however the joy of dipping your toe with pop-ups and one-offs is that you can try before you buy without committing to anything long term. What's more, off-site ventures will naturally advertise your services and wares further afield, they can also serve to strengthen your existing business and overall brand by providing a visible presence at a host of new locations. This extends your reach to a new and theoretically much wider audience - and one where you can test out new products and markets. A 'roaming' presence can underpin your CSR (corporate social responsibility) profile too where events support specific initiatives or charities.  

Outside Catering

There's a world of opportunities to go outside. Event or outside catering can include private get-togethers - from dinner parties to bat mitzvahs - as well as public gatherings such as sporting events, festivals and seasonal celebrations. 

Providing cold buffets - sandwiches, canap?s, salads and other snacks - is one of the simplest and most cost effective ways to work. Prepare in your existing kitchen facilities then simply box up and go. For hot buffets and other menu options most dishes may be prepared, cooked even, in advance and simply reheated or finished 'on location'. For venues with limited to no kitchen facilities available boiling rings, barbeques, fridges, catering vans and other equipment can all be bought or hired in depending on your ongoing requirements and budget. 

Depending on the occasion and agreement with your customer, you may need to source table and glassware. Approach local suppliers and discuss teaming up - they may well send further business your way and establishing a relationship could lead to better hire prices. Alternatively, where disposables are more appropriate, we offer a wide range of cups, pots and other packaging items, plus cutlery and napkins too. 

Street Food and Pop-Up Venues

A temporary street food stall or pop-up restaurant may be a better fit with your existing business and method of working. They are perfect for fair weather operators too so, if you like to stay warm in winter, you can stay out of the cold.  

If you want to stay close to home but would like to be more visible, or would simply like to get out in the open air, setting up immediately in front of your existing premises (licence required) or within the garden or other suitable outdoor space on the property is a breeze. Contract caterers may benefit from an on-site pop-up too - especially if they are based at a university, business complex or other large estate - speak to your client to see what additional services you may be able to provide. 

Event catering pitches vary hugely in price. A small localised market for example may be as little as ?50 a day, while pitches at nationally or internationally recognised festivals or sporting events can be thousands. Comparatively, if footfall is low you may struggle to break even while large crowds can generate hundreds or thousands of pounds worth of profit in a matter of days. Some events require booking a year or more in advance and have very strict vendor application processes. And if you're a relatively small scale operation, we would advise honing your service at smaller more relaxed events before committing to something like Glastonbury! Most local authorities will also be open to proposals within designated public spaces - such as parks and high streets. Contact them to find out more about the locations available as well as to discuss licensing requirements.

Your street food or temporary offering could be as simple as a counter (table top) paired with a chiller or barbeque and some form of shelter - add tables, chairs and other street furniture as required. To set up shop on the pavement outside your premises or any other public space (with the exception of some nominated areas already hosting an event such as a food festival or market) will require a licence from the local authority - primarily as you are obstructing a public highway. The council will want to check there is adequate space for everyone to move freely around you, and they will also want to ensure your set-up isn't negatively impacting on local residents and other businesses. Licence fees vary depending on the local authority, space to be utilised and time(s) it will be occupied. In some regions there is no fee for making use of a space under a certain size however a licence will still be required. The use of umbrellas, planters and other furniture may incur additional costs - contact your local council for full details. 

Street food and other temporary set ups will require something to serve your customers food in or on, packaging and disposables tend to be more practical in these settings than tableware. Our compostable street boxes, pots, chip cones and deli papers allow the customer to take away and eat wherever they choose which is ideal if your seating is limited. What's more, there's no washing up and everything, including our new cutlery, can go straight into the food waste bin once it's been used. 

Getting Started: Five Key Points to Help Get You Out the Door

Groundwork - While you're deciding which service(s) you'd ideally like to provide, consider the existing market and see if there are any gaps you could potentially fill within this. You'll also need to assess whether you can operate 'outside' your exiting business using your current resources (time, staff, equipment, vehicles and so on) - if you need to hire or buy anything in, what will be the cost?  

Contact local venues, offices, event organisers, suppliers, competitors even (though you'll need to go under cover) - anyone and everyone with whom your path may cross to find out how the land lies. Keep a record of companies that won't use you, for whatever reason, as well as those that will. This may offer valuable insights into the ways in which you can hone your offering and will also stop you wasting time and energy in the future on dead ends! You should also consider partnering up with complementary suppliers including sites with limited to no kitchen facilities - or those with no in-house catering staff.  

Marketing - In addition to any other marketing activity you may have planned, don't forget to promote your new service offering to your existing customer base. They are a captive audience and already like what you do - word of mouth is free to utilise but its impact can be priceless. 

Where appropriate custom designed cups can help to raise the profile of your new service too by spreading your message far and wide. We offer short print runs on cups so you can have a design created especially for an event or location, or even have cups made up for use on your existing premises to share news of your new service.

Red Tape - Public liability insurance is a must for off-site ventures unless covered by your existing insurance, and you'll need a licence from your local authority if you are operating in any public space not covered by the licence of the event organiser. Indoor pop-ups will also require a formal lease from the owners or managers of the host building.

Mobile and temporary venues need to be registered with the environmental health department of your local authority at least 28 days before opening - this includes pop-ups, vans and stalls too. 

Stay mindful of health and safety practices when you are preparing for an event and plan thoroughly: carry out a detailed risk assessment and compile a comprehensive health and safety policy. Even simple tasks, such as organising hand-washing facilities, storage and the the disposal of greywater, can be problematic in a field or public space. Check with the local authority or event organiser for details of what's available on-site and what is required or you.

Allergens - To comply with the Food Information Legislation, you must be able to advise your customers of the presence of any potential allergens within your products.

If you are preparing food on-site at your existing premises you do not have to label your products but must make customers aware of allergens through signage, menus, labelling or even verbally. If you are preparing food off-site at a stall, van etc. or within a host kitchen, if you are trading under the name of your existing business, you can advise customers via the same means. 

Be a one hit wonder - going out and about doesn't have to mean complicating your offering, especially if your off-site facilities are going to be restricted. For most pop ups and stalls one or two well made signature dishes can be enough - especially if they are customisable in some way (perhaps with a choice of sauces or toppings) which is a big food trend for 2016. And this may also encourage customers to pay your regular premises a visit to find out what else is on offer.

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