Operating a catering trailer can be a lucrative and versatile business option, but operators have to know the process involved in starting and maintaining such a business. A catering trailer business is ideal because the start-up cost is fairly low, and it allows the versatility of easy relocation to another area if the first one does not yield as much income as expected. However, before relocating, operators need to educate themselves on the processes, regulations, and government bodies that determine a pitch.
In addition, operators who have the resources to wait, can choose to only operate at specific outdoors events in various cities. They can also choose to get a license to operate on the road or form an alliance with a company and operate from their parking lot. There are many ways to earn a living with a catering trailer, but as with any food business, hygiene plays a vital role. Aside from selecting a good catering trailer and a lucrative location, operators need to familiarize themselves with some basic hints and tips about food preparation, illness, and general cleaning tips that should help them to maintain a clean, hygienic catering trailer.
Location Hints and Tips
While there are basic hygiene rules, the location of the catering operation also determines the additional effort, or lack thereof, that may be needed to maintain cleanliness. Additionally, the location plays an integral role in the success of the entire operation, so much thought should be put into this selection.
Catering Trailers in the Streets
Operating from the side of a road is often the first choice for many catering trailer operators; this is due to the fact that there is generally no rent to be paid, no contracts to sign, the freedom to come and go, and the profit margin is often higher than other locations. However, the streets tend to emit more dust, insects, and miniscule debris, so more effort has to be placed in maintaining a clean environment.
Catering Trailers at Events
With many shows and events taking place within the U.K. annually, operators can opt to make themselves available at these events, where they can make a high return on their investments. Some companies and websites provide event guides, where operators can search for the various events that are scheduled to take place in their city and then source the proper contact details to permission to operate at the event.
Oftentimes, the event promoters dedicate specific sections to accommodate catering trailers. These areas are generally sanitized or at least easy to maintain. Additionally, multiple caterers often mean that operators can combine efforts in preparing and maintaining a clean environment for the duration of the event.
Franchise Catering Trailers
This is not as popular in the U.K. as it once was, but there are still local companies who would like to expand but do not have the resources to do so easily. Instead, they partner with mobile caterers who are willing to bear the name, share the fame, and the profits. In essence, operators become a semi-branch of the local company, providing similar food and sporting the brand. Franchise companies are often accompanied by health regulations and standard that needs to be strictly adhered to. This is generally presented in a set of hygiene guidelines for employees of the franchise to follow.
Catering Trailers Authorized Set-Up
Many contemporary catering trailer operators opt for this option because the income is surer, even if profits are not as high as other options. It is simpler to contact a company or factory and gain authorization to operate on their compound or in their parking lot. This can be especially lucrative if the company is large and lacks a canteen with a comprehensive menu. Additionally, trailer food tends to be less expensive, and many employees often opt for the more economical option, especially if it is in easy reach. The company often maintains the compound and parking lots, so the catering trailer operator only has to focus on their immediate surroundings and within the trailer.
Hygiene Hints and Tips
Despite the location chosen, there are certain basic hygiene practices that all mobile catering operators should follow. These can be considered "best practices" for anyone in the food preparation and retail industry.
Standard Hygiene Tips
All operators should ensure that they keep themselves clean, including their clothing. Hands should be thoroughly washed before the handling of food and after the handling of raw food and waste and also after using the toilet and every break taken.
It goes without saying that if the operator or any employees are sick, they should ensure that any open cuts are covered with clean waterproof bandages, and they should avoid handling the food unnecessarily. Even though the trailer is used to prepare food, operators should avoid eating and drinking in the trailer, as well as avoid smoking, coughing, and sneezing near the food.
Avoid preparing food in advance if possible. If the food has to be prepared in advance, try to limit the amount of time that it stands before serving. Additionally, perishable food should be kept completely hot or refrigerated until it is ready to serve. When refrigerated food is being reheated, it should be completed heated until it is very hot and not just warm.
Operators should clean as they go along. Therefore, all surfaces and equipment should be kept clean until they are ready to be used again. Cleaning products should always be on hand. Chlorine bleach is a good product to keep in the trailer, as it is not too harsh but good enough to remove bacteria from work surfaces.
When selecting a location for the catering trailer, operators should opt for a location that has running water. This is not always available but preferred. If running water is not available, ample stored water should be available in the trailer to facilitate a constant clean-up. Bottled and stored water should be changed often even if never used.
Additionally, a paved location is ideal to minimize the amount of dust and dirt that may be floating in the air. However, if a paved or grassed-over location cannot be attained, operators should lightly sprinkle the surrounding environment to keep dust to a minimum.
Whether a seating area is provided or not, operators should provide an external trash bin for their customers. Some customers tend to start eating the very moment they receive their food, so one or two convenient bins should be placed just outside the trailer to accommodate wrappers, and any other waste material.
Hygiene Certificates and Registration
Operators should contact their local council to find out about the need for a Food Hygiene Certificate and the process to attain one. Even though a catering trailer is a mobile business, it is nonetheless a business; therefore, it needs to be registered with a local Environmental Health Department.
Pros and Cons of Buying a New or Used Catering Trailer
In any business that requires a vehicle, buyers have to decide whether they want to buy a brand new vehicle, or settle for a used one. These decisions often vary greatly based on the type of business, the type of vehicle and the budget. The chart below compares the advantages and disadvantages of buying a new or used trailer for a catering business.
Catering equipment and décor can be chosen based on the owner's preference; longer warranty; accompanied by electrical and gas certificates; possible to get better insurance
Costlier; all internal equipment have to be purchased and installed separately; money needed to customize paint and décor
Less expensive; save money on needed equipment already installed
Less customizability; trailer may already have paint job and logo of previous owner; shorter warranty
In viewing the chart above, operators may find that the pros of the new trailer are very similar to the cons of the used trailer and vice versa. Operators simply need to know that there are advantages and disadvantages of choosing either one. Therefore, they need to scrutinize the possible outcome and cross reference it with their budget and available resources before making a final decision.
How to Buy Catering Trailers on eBay
To buy catering trailers on eBay, you simply start out by performing a search from the eBay home page. The results from the search may contain other related items, which can be filtered out as you see fit. Some of these items may also be on your list to purchase after you have acquired an actual trailer. For instance, the categories of products may include furniture or décor, kitchen equipment, refrigeration, and other supplies. They can even be further subdivided by filtering for various sub types. These may include sinks, burners, fryers, tea or hot water urns, and chillers.
Performing a general search and then adding filters can help greatly, especially when you are not completely sure of all the items that are needed. However, if you already have your list and do not want to go through the hassle of filtering through numerous listings, you can simply perform a search for the specific item that you need. For instance, if you need to buy a sink for your catering trailer, you can input the specific keywords into your initial search and that would produce results more relevant to the specific keyword.
Deciding to start a catering trailer business should be well-thought out before the venture is attempted. However, operators should know that proper hygiene is at the forefront of any food handling business. The first thing to consider after acquiring a trailer is the location in which the trailer may be situated. This decision also affects the hygiene factor and the steps that have to be taken to maintain a healthy environment.
When the location is selected, operators then have to enforce certain basic health and hygienic principles to ensure a healthy and environmentally friendly operation. There are additional tips and hints listed in regards to legally and successfully operating a mobile catering business. Also, buyers are equipped with the advantages and disadvantages of buying a new or used trailer to start their brand new business.
Furthermore, new businesses alway require tools, equipment, and supplies, but the issue generally lies with finding a store or retailer that has sufficient variety and stock. eBay can prove to be a helping hand for many newcomers in the catering trailer business because it has a variety of new and used catering trailers for sale, as well as various equipment.