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Work on Roadside Pitches

Lay-bys, Car Parks & Industrial Estates

Historically this is where all mobile caterers used to operate.

In the 1990's there were 10 units operating on the A34 along the stretch from the M42 to Oxford, and they were goldmines. Open 24/7 they were taking many thousands a week. This scene was mirrored up and down the country with trailers and vans on A roads, making significant profits.

Things have moved on a long way since then but there are still over 1200 Mobile Caterers operating on Britain's roads today.
Things have moved on a long way since then but there are still over 1200 Mobile Caterers operating on Britain's roads today

However, the number of roadside pitches across the UK has significantly reduced since the implementation of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act.

Many councils used this legislation to close down many roadside pitches, as they believed that that many roadside units were causing a traffic hazard, and feared that some members of the public were dodging traffic just to get a cup of tea!

Roadside pitches

This legislation continues to allow each borough council to determine how much roadside trading they want to allow in their area, and where it can take place. Some local boroughs have completely banned roadside pitches and street trading from their boroughs, others have restricted where the pitches are available, pushing them from busy A roads and town centres out to trading and industrial estates. In the years since Act was implemented, some councils have licensed back certain roads as designated trading areas, giving traders more financial security.

Things have moved on a long way since those days, and for numerous reasons, roadside catering units are far less prevalent than in previous years. For a start, roadside service stations offer the customer a better proposition, with restaurants and cafes, petrol stations, shops and rest areas, but there are still around 1200 Mobile Caterers operating on Britain's roads today.

Can I start operating my Roadside Catering Business anywhere?

Generally, the answer is no. Local by-laws relating to roadside trading vary greatly from one council to another. Some require a street trading licence, whereas others have abolished them. Not all councils allow roadside trading, and the introduction of the Miscellaneous Provisions Act has given Local Authorities the power to ban trading on streets under their control which has changed this sector of the industry.

Trading from the roadside is very often frowned upon by Local Authorities, the most likely reason being that caterers may cause traffic obstruction or congestion, forcing other road users to detour around the unit.

The Police are the only people empowered to move you on. Their first action will be to 'ask' you to move; if you don't, they have the power to enforce it. However, on the positive side, the Police are usually very polite and can be most helpful; they may even suggest another area you may be able to trade from.

How do I start? You have 3 options:

1. Start from scratch

To work on the roadside or at a retail, trading or industrial estate, you should always contact your local council. Ask them if you will be allowed to work at the site you want to work at, and if you will require a licence to do so. The council may ask you to pay for a street trading licence.

2. Buy an existing business or pitch

Obviously there are still some traders on the roads who have been granted permission from the council, and of course these are worth money! There are sometimes some available in the Business For Sale section of our Buy / Sell area.

Please remember, a licence may or may not be transferable, and you need to be absolutely sure that it is before you hand over any money.


Our best-selling book "The Complete Guide to Profitable Catering" contains over 175 pages of essential information for anyone looking to start up in the Mobile Catering Industry.

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3. Pitches on private land

Many Roadside Caterers actually operate from private land, such as car parks outside retail or business addresses. Once again, the feasibility of these pitches will depend on your local council. Some councils are more than happy for you to trade from private land without licences, however, some borough councils will insist that you get a street trading licence regardless of whether you are on a public highway or not. Others will ask you to seek planning permission as you are looking to change the use of the land. Just because you have the agreement of the landlord, it does not guarantee that you will be free from local government rules or regulations.

In addition, you might want to contact Retail Concessions, a site agent who operate many major retail car parks across the UK such as B&Q, Homebase and many more > Click here to go to their site 

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