how to start a food van in london

How to start a food van in London

If you can cook a number of great dishes and have an interest in serving meals from a truck, this article is for you. We’ve rounded up the very best tips on how to start a food van in London including an epic checklist for you to take with.

Exactly how to start a food van in London

Knowing how to start a food van as you will learn is only one part of the process. Knowing how much work is involved in starting a food business is enough to put a lot off. Don’t forget to head over to our guide on starting a food business, coming soon.

It’s written with some considerable experience in the sector, by the co-founder of The Skinny Kitchen brand. In the meantime, here’s a sobering stat about food and beverage start-ups:

9 out of 10 new food and drink start-ups fail

The Independent

Recommended Reading on Starting a Food Cart

Here’s our top tips from personal opinion on what you should read first.

1. Start with the research

Firstly you’ll need to conduct market research and analyse the already existing offers. Go on an inspirational trip to see how others do it or search online to get an idea. What do they do well, what do they not even do?

2. Stand out

Whether it’s the taste, the price or the sourcing is the soul of your business, define your philosophy carefully. Organic food? No waiting time? The craziest looking truck? Be different and keep yourself to that!

3. The perfect vehicle

Are you planning to serve on local markets, streets or set up your truck on festivals? Each requires different strategies and vehicles so craft a plan before jumpstarting your business.

When choosing your vehicle, consider the usual weather conditions of your location. Moreover, think about the size and design. It has to represent your brand and style.

Make it interesting, unique and inviting for the crowd.


The essential items in your food van:

  • Storage units
  • Fridge and freezer
  • Cooking equipment
  • Electrical outlets
  • Waste disposal system
  • Sinks and draining board
  • Fire fighting equipment
  • A clean area to prepare food
  • An area where you can safely keep the money and licenses

4. Your awesome menu

If you already know what kind of food you’ll be serving on your truck, spend time testing the recipes. Let your friends and family taste it and experiment with the ingredients. Once you have the perfect combos, plan the menu you’ll be offering.

Also, think about the sourcing and the amounts you’ll have to order to complete a specific number of orders daily. Talk and make good deals with suppliers. And be flexible with your food – if something is not working, make changes and develop the best versions your target will carve for!

5. Allocate the work

Obviously, you’ll need to make partnerships with your suppliers but an accountant and a business expert would also help. Keep the tasks for yourself you enjoy and good at, and allocate others to people you trust and can work well with. It not only will let you focus your energies, but professionals will help you succeed.

6. Legalisation and licences

You’ll need to check your electrical equipment by an engineer to operate safely and legally. Moreover, a basic qualification in food safety is also required and you’ll have to think about getting a food hygiene qualification too.

Lastly, register with your local authority 28 days before starting off. It’s free of charge but the procedure varies from district to district, so get in touch with your local organization in advance to be informed and prepared before you open.

Recap on how to start a food van in London

Or anywhere else in the UK in truth. This is our quick recap on how to start a food van in London.

You need to understand if you can do one legally, what you want to do, how you want to do it and where you want to do it.

But in addition to all that fun stuff, think about the margins. Think about pricing. Think about portion control.

If you don’t know how much it costs to put a customer order together, then rather than being a business, it could just be a black hole. This is something we discovered in the early days of our own food business back in 2014. Despite working our fingers to the bone, and our bodies falling apart with the stress, we hadn’t check this out. This meant the following year we needed to make sure our pricing actually made us money and wasn’t plucked out of thin air.

If I have put you off the food business, you could go for an online business instead?

But if you’re still with us, here’s your checklist to how to start a food van in London:

  • Define your style
  • Decide on your location
  • Choose the right vehicle
  • Plan your menu
  • Collaborate
  • Make it legal