Dirty Donkey was founded by four teenage friends during the numerous lockdowns over the past two years.
The four founders transformed a horsebox into a modern bar and pizzeria trailer, offering sizzling the classic Neapolitan pizza that everyone knows and loves, but with a twist.
We caught up with the team to get the low down on how they found the process of starting up in street food.
What inspired you to set up a business together?
We had been thinking of setting up a business for a long time but weren’t sure what to go into. Beni and Ben had tried a short-lived idea of a furniture restoration business, but it didn’t last long. Jacques and Beni worked for a company called The Wedding Pizza Company, loved the idea, and thought “why don’t we set one up ourselves too,” which is where the idea started.
Tell us about the process behind setting up – how did you go about sourcing a trailer?
Beni and Jacques had planned a little before we properly started to set up the business. During February and March 2021, we spent hours and hours on zoom just aiming to see whether it was even feasible. We made a whole plan and began buying things when we knew that we were able to follow through with it. The trailer was sourced from Facebook Marketplace just scrolling through by chance. Ben went up to Jacques in Nottingham near to where the trailer was the day after spotting it online, and a week later we bought it.
The branding came from wanting to incorporate a horse theme due to the business being run out of a horse trailer, which is where the idea from the logo came from.
What have you learnt along the way?
Having restored the trailer ourselves we learnt a lot of new DIY skills, and things like setting up our own electrics and water system which were a challenge. We’ve also learnt a lot of business skills, dealing with customers and how to get ourselves into events.
Why pizza and how did you decide on the menu?
Pizza is something we all love and having worked for a similar company we knew pizza would work and we had a rough idea of how to go about bringing that idea to life. In terms of designing a menu, it was a case of collectively bringing together our favourite flavours and incorporating them into the menu whilst still delivering the classics people know and love.
Why did you become an NCASS member?
When setting up a food catering business there are so many rules and regulations to be aware of which can be quite daunting. NCASS gave us that helping hand and advised us along the way, ensuring that what we were doing was correct. Once we had set up the business, through using their Due Diligence folder, NCASS has allowed us to be organised with our processes and given us the peace of mind that we have got everything covered.
Best thing about working in the street food industry?
I think it has got to be the people. Whenever you go to an event with other traders, they are always so welcoming and interested in your story and setup, making for a great community. And of course, the food trading between vendors, that’s a bonus.
What’s next for the business in 2022?
We recently bought a third oven, giving us the capacity to move into doing bigger events, so it would be great to see Dirty Donkey catering some bigger weddings and making a feature on the festival scene.
Any advice for people getting into the industry?
Ask questions and go for it. NCASS is there to help you, so use it and take all the advice you can. It can be scary going into something blind, but NCASS gives you that piece of mind that you are on the right track. But equally have a go, try it, you won’t regret it.
Favourite street food other than pizza?
I think it would have to be wings of ‘The Wing Guys’ or the chicken burger from ‘That Smoke Truck’- amazing food made by amazing people.
Any food heroes you’d like to go for a beer with?
Heston Blumenthal, we love it when people think outside the box.4