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Street Food Live 2018

Street Food Live

This year’s Street Food Live saw the NCASS team, enforcement officers, events experts and traders nationwide come together at ExCel London to network, learn and share their advice on running a successful street food business. NCASS were primary partners for the 2018 event, meaning we had far more input on the talks and sessions held, and could bring in more food industry experts than ever before! Here’s a run-through of how it all went.

Alan Fox, How to Thrive in Street Food

Alan’s talk, ‘How to Thrive in Street Food’, drew a big crowd as he covered the importance of good branding and marketing to make your business a success. “Most successful street food traders have a story and they share it through their branding”, he explained. “A good brand communicates a clear message about what it stands for and how it differs or is better than its competitors.”

Alan also told audiences how best to come up with a great name for a new business. “When thinking of a business name, keep it simple and incorporate your type of food or think of something snappy, clever, memorable. A strong name is a great starting point into making a strong brand.”

As for marketing, Alan went on to talk about the importance of social media. “Social media is a street food trader's best friend. It's free, you can connect with customers, you can find places to trade and you can showcase your brand to the world.” He explained that, to be successful, “You need to use social media to build up the biggest following you can. The more followers you have, the better your company and brand is known.”

Alan concluded his speech by telling the crowd that building a solid brand won’t happen overnight. “It doesn’t matter what your goal is for your business, in order to reach it as quickly and as easily as possible, effective and successful branding and marketing is integral.”

Bob Fox, Top Tips for Street Food Success

NCASS Chairman Bob Fox took to the stage next, drawing an even bigger crowd eager to learn from the mobile catering mogul himself on, ‘Top Tips for Street Food Success’. Bob talked of his experiences as a mobile caterer, and his mistakes and successes over the years.

“You put a product out there and test it with customers, suppliers, your margin, the produce you buy, then you change it,” he explained. “Then you test it and you change it again. And you still might not get it right. Then the market changes, so you need to change again.” His advice? “You need to think, what do I do to make mine that bit different, that bit special to make people come back time and time and time again?”

Bob’s final piece of advice was for business owners to get a mentor. “That’s what NCASS is about. We help with documents, finance, equipment and marketing. We work hard to ensure you succeed because your success is ours too.”

Mark Laurie, The Future of Street Food

Mark Laurie had a great deal of advice for business owners looking to keep trading long into the future. “Two billion people eat street food daily around the world,” Mark explained. “It’s only in the West that it’s a new phenomenon.”

He went on to explain how street food had grown from dirty pink burgers to tacos, then bao, then a full-blown revolution. His advice, “If you follow a trend, you’re putting a time limit on your business,” was met with agreement from audience members in-the-know. Mark acknowledged Sarah and Thomas from The Mussel Pod, who farm their own mussels and cook and sell them on their street food unit, explaining that though it was hard work, the originality and authenticity was what made their business so appealing.

Mark then told the audience that, “One of the biggest threats in the industry is the appropriation of street food - fast food disguised as street food.” Mark talked of the new trend for supermarkets to sell packaged food with ‘street food’ printed on the label, and how big restaurants are beginning to open street food stalls using kitchen equipment which they’d brought outside, something a visiting EHO would not be pleased to see. “The Street Food Alliance is supporting more professional traders who follow the rules with the right attitude,” Mark explained. “Those who threaten the integrity of industry are not welcome.”

Mark’s biggest piece of advice to start ups was, “If you're looking to give up your job to spend £20,000 starting a street food business, go to a street food trader and ask to work for them for free. You might hate it. This will save you £20,000!”

Special Industry Guests Q&A

The show ended with a talk by Tay Potier and Lucy Urquhart, EHOs from The Royal Borough of Greenwich, followed by an insight into accessing work from Digbeth Dining Club founder Jack Brabant and a question & answer session led by Mark Laurie.

Tay and Lucy shared their message that “EHOs aren’t scary,” and explained that they too want to see street food businesses succeed. The food safety experts told the audience how Environmental Health Departments and NCASS work together through our Primary Authority Partnership to help business owners remain compliant and safe, without fear of harming their customers or staff and the reputation of their business.

Jack disclosed to the crowd some of the best ways to apply for a pitch at an event, and how best to promote your business to secure the deal with an organiser. The worst thing a trader can do, in Jack’s opinion, is, “Call me without doing your research!”. Jack also explained that many organisers do not accept traders with a hygiene rating below five, so getting your documentation in order really is the most important thing.

Want to hear more about the show?

Search the hashtag #NCASSatStreetFoodLive on Twitter for more quotes and pictures from the event. Look out for videos of all the NCASS talks on our Facebook and Youtube pages soon!

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