Every festival, virtually every market, and local event these days, you are likely to find a “Street Food Vendor” The Burger Van, and even the old favourite a “Hog Roast” is still popular, but increasingly these days’ people want something different. Mexican stalls, Paella stalls, Caribbean food, and Gourmet food stalls, are all popping up. Often with an unusual twist, perhaps the vehicle, barbeque, or cooker, is modelled out of a unique item! I recently saw a Caribbean Street Food vendor making his food in a massive wok over a makeshift fire pit. Incidentally, the food was awesome and served in simple card boxes, minimising costs, and sticking to portion control!
Pop up restaurants have been around for a few years now and are more and more popular in close knit communities. Local people, and friends coming together to enjoy good food, in a cosy atmosphere without the need to visit expensive restaurants. Often, these types of restaurants are used as a vehicle for chefs to showcase their skills and can be almost anywhere, and any size! It is also a great way for any prospective Restaurateur to gauge interest in an idea. Pop up restaurants are a great way to start out if you have a hankering to open your own restaurant. You can try out your ideas on your guests, and as they will be paying substantially less than they would in a restaurant, will be quite honest as to what they would be likely to pay if they were eating in a larger established restaurant.
Hidden restaurants, are a relatively new concept, and have only really come to the fore in the last few years. Foodies, are always seeking out new restaurants to try, and will always look for something that is different, niche, and in an unusual location. Hidden restaurants, are popping up in clothes shops behind what looks like a changing room curtain. In furniture shops, behind what looks like a wardrobe taking you into a ‘Narnia’ style eatery, and more unusually, on the hillside of moorland, with a ‘cave like’ frontage. These more unusual restaurants are again, another means of trialling a niche market, giving the customer something out of the ordinary and a great talking point.
But, whether you are running a street food stall, a pop up restaurant or a hidden restaurant, you still need to follow the same principles as any restaurant, café and hotel and ensure you follow the strict guidelines set by the Government food agency.
From a consultancy point of view, we are regularly asked by our clients, to advise and assist in the setting up of procedures prior to opening a restaurant. And it is imperative, that you have a number of things in place before you start out on your journey.
- You need to ensure you have full public liability insurance in place. Regardless of how many people you intend to serve, whether it’s 10 at a time or 100 at a time, you must ensure you are covered.
- Make sure your kitchen is adequately equipped. Again, it is always a good idea to speak to your local Environmental Health Officer at the outset. Much better to do this than for him to come in and close you down within a week because there are non-compliances.
- Once you know you have all the legal stuff covered, you need to consider your menu, it is always a good idea, especially if you are starting off small, to find your niche, but make sure you do your research of what people want. Locally sourced produce is important, customers these days want to know the origins of what they are eating, so check out your local markets, butchers, and bakers etc. If you are setting up in a rural location, check out the local farms.
- Advertise. For small starts, social media can be a great vehicle for this. Set up a Facebook group, tweet about your venture, make sure people know you are going to be opening. Don’t spend your first weeks open, begging for business!
- Research other restaurants that have opened in your town, past and present. Research restaurants that may have failed! Just because your town does not have a fish restaurant for instance, it does not necessarily mean there is an opening for a fish restaurant! it could simply be that there was one in the past and it didn’t work.
- Keep it simple, plain blackboards, smaller menu’s, you don’t need expensive tables and chairs or equipment, you are small, street, pop up or hidden, that is part of the attraction. You will be providing quality food, at a great price, your diners are not going to expect bone china plates and silver cutlery. I used to frequent a tea shop that had mis matched china cups and saucers, and odd tea pots, it was always packed! Quirky is often an attraction to customers as long as it goes hand in hand with quality!
If you would like advice on how to move forward with your restaurant, or you already run a restaurant and need advice on menu design, staffing, training, environmental health issues. would love to help.
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