How to set up a food van business

If, post election, you’ve been gripped by a bit of capitalist entrepreneurial spirit, you might be thinking about setting up your own business. And with Festival season fast underway, perhaps it’s food orientated and van or trailer shaped.

If you’re looking at getting into grub at festivals and events, our blog is here to help. Think of this one as a crash course on what you’ll need, what you’ll need to do, and how to make getting started in the food van business a success…

Like any business start up, there are many, many things you’ll need t0 consider if you’re thinking of setting up a mobile food business. There’s (ahem) no such thing as a free lunch and there’s a lot more to it than just turning up at events and festivals and flipping a few burgers. But don’t let that stop you. If you work through those things methodically they’re not as dating as they first seem. To help you get started – here’s our crash course in setting up your own food van business…


If you think you’ll be able to get your business up and running for ten quid, think again. Even for the most basic start up – usually purchasing a  small second hand trailer or van – requires an initial outlay upwards of £5,000. If you’re really serious about making your operation a little more prestige – or buying new – then set your minimum budget between £10 – 20k. For bespoke, purpose built vans and trailers then you’ll north of £20,000 up to £50,000.


You can’t do anything properly without the right equipment – which is why it is by far the most significant portion of your startup outlay. From a griddle to a chopping board, from fridges and freezers to a water urn – there’s plenty to sort. If your startup coffers don’t stretch to buying outright , you might find what you need second hand. A lower-risk alternative is to hire the gear from a specialist catering equipment supplier as you won’t have to outlay a large amount initially.

Staff & Training

Big events might be lucrative for the food van operator – but they’re also busy and stressful. At big festivals there is almost always a long queue – and you’ll need to ensure both yourself and your staff have the right training when it comes to preparing and cooking food safely and meeting demand. As well as ensuring everything meets the best Hygiene standards – there’s a risk of cooking too much (and having to throw it away), at the same time there’s the scenario where you don’t have enough food ready to provide your hungry customers speedily with your tasty fair.

Branding, Image and Niche

Burgers, hog roasts, chicken, noodles – there’s as much food choice at a festival or event as you’ll find on any High-Street. So what will your niche be? Have you got something to offer that hasn’t been done before? Or something that little bit different to make your business stand out from the masses? And even if you’ve got the style of food sorted – how does your stall look? To make food appetising in this environment and ensure punters choose your fare over everyone else you need to make sure your brand and image sells it. It is well worth investing in professional help to create a stand-out look.

Legal: Certificates, Licenses and Insurance

At the same time as getting the equipment, training and branding sorted, you’ll need to focus on the dull-but-necessary paperwork. There’s specialist Insurance (public liability as well as indemnity) as well as the license that you’ll need to buy from the relevant promoter or administrator at your chosen event or venue.

Supplies & Storage

If you need somewhere to keep some of your hardware or equipment, then a self storage unit with us could be the right solution. From pots and pans to urns and kitchen implements it’s a space that’s versatile for storing.

You’ll probably need somewhere other than your van or trailer to prep your food and clean your kit – and you won’t be able to use a storage unit for that. You might be able to do this at home to begin with, but if your business grows then you might need to expand into a small industrial unit. You’ll also need freezers (or an electrical hook up for the freezers in your trailer) once you’ve ordered in your raw food stocks.

Venues and Places to Sell

You might decide that the lay-by on the A40-whatever is the place to be. Or you might relish the prospect of a queue 40 people deep at a festival like Glastonbury. You may have something unique enough for specialist private catering – such as wedding or party. Then again perhaps your preferred niche is more the markets of your local high streets.

You can find more information on setting up a food van business at the website of the National Nationwide Caterers Association – the industry body representing mobile caterers up and don the land.


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