About

Historically, roadside is where all mobile caterers used to operate.

In the 1990s there were 10 units operating on the A34 along the stretch from the M42 to Oxford, open 24/7, they were goldmines. This model was mirrored up and down the country with trailers and vans on A-roads.

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

 

Challenges

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 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!

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 authorities have completely banned roadside pitches and street trading, 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 the Miscellaneous Provisions 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.

There is more competition to stand out and less places to trade from but there are still a number traditional Mobile Caterers operating on Britain’s roads, industrial estates and retail parks today and we have supported many of them since NCASS was founded. 

Can I start operating a 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 independent catering industry.

Trading from the roadside is often frowned upon by Local Authorities, the most likely reason being that caterers could cause traffic obstruction or congestion, forcing other road users to detour around the unit. You should work with your Local Authority to agree on a pitch and the parameters you want to trade within. 

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, once you have a contract in place with the land owner, 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 classifieds area. 

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

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 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.

Remember, 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 may want to contact a site agent who operate many major retail car parks across the UK such as B&Q, Homebase and many more. 

During the Covid-19 Crisis, NCASS have lobbied for Street Trading Licenses to be relaxed and for councils to work with mobile caterers to help them work through the pandemic. Guidance from the LGA for Local Authorities requested by NCASS can be found here.

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