One of the cheapest ways to get started in catering and for that reason, one of the most popular is the market stall – especially for street food.

There are many advantages and disadvantages to market stall trading, which is why it’s worth exploring all factors before you commit.

Advantages of Gazebo Trading

Cost

The main reason that traders go for a Gazebo is cost.

A brand new durable aluminium gazebo with sufficient fire proofing can cost as little as £500 to buy, making it the most cost effective way of setting up a mobile food business. These days a gazebo company is likely to be able to print bespoke designs onto the roof and sides, which will help the trader to stand out and brand their unit.

A good looking gazebo often looks better than an old trailer and costs a lot less; it can be 20 times cheaper than a good looking motorised unit or trailer –but you do have to add your own equipment and safety measures.

Height/eye level:

Many Gazebo traders swear by the advantages of being at eye level with the customer and the food being in clear view. This makes it easier for the customer to see the food being cooked, which can be a real bonus, especially if there is a degree of theatre involved in the cooking process.

From Paella to Hog Roasts, the customers like to see what they’re getting and this can help you to sell your stock. It’s worth noting that you can’t hide anything either, so poor food hygiene or a lack of hand washing facilities will be exposed and in full public view. Therefore, you need to ensure that you have the right equipment and can deal with the food hygienically and professionally.

Driving licences & costs:

A fully laden trailer over 3.5 tonnes (with the towing vehicle included) will require an enhanced driving licence, most people are able to drive the eponymous ‘white van’ without the need for extra licencing. 

It’s a lot easier and cheaper to store a gazebo, fold down tables and basic equipment than a trailer or a catering van. People are far less likely to run off with your gazebo compared to a trailer or food truck!

Furthermore, if your trailer breaks down on the way to a market or event, the chances are you won’t be able to trade or will have to get it towed onto and off site – this can be a nightmare if you’re working at events up and down the country. With a gazebo, if your van breaks down you can always unload it and get another van to site. Alternatively, if you hire vans for specific events and they break down, the hire company should send a replacement.

Stall Size:

Many markets are in busy retail areas with stalls sitting in front of shops. The retailers often pay large rents and significant rates and are not likely to be happy if you turn up with a 20ft trailer which completely covers their shop window.

Market organisers can also fit more gazebos or market stalls in a limited space than they can trailers or vans, this means that they can make more money from the market. For this reason alone you are far more likely to see market stalls used at events with limited space, especially street markets.

There has also been a reaction against the more traditional trailers over the past few years which some perceive to sell cheap and cheerful fast food.

Scale:

You can always scale up a gazebo, you can’t scale up (or down) a van or trailer, so if you need to get into a 3 meter space you can use one gazebo. Alternatively, to scale up for a show or event just take a second gazebo.

Shop window:

A gazebo offers a full frontage meaning that you have more space to show off and sell your food then say a hatch from a van or a trailer. Assuming you make the most of it, a larger frontage to sell from can be a key advantage.

Disadvantages of Gazebo Trading

The weather:

Never under estimate the British weather, if you are at a show or event and the rain is coming down in sheet’s, somehow it seems to come in sideways and the poor folk in gazebo’s are the ones taking the brunt of it.

Compared to a trailer or van, a gazebo only offers limited protection from the elements and you may curse the day you decided against getting a box on wheels. There are other issues such as hygiene. The rain also causes mud and gazebo’s only have limited protection against this.

At events like Glastonbury where the mud can be a foot deep and can rise above the gazebo floor you may find you are desperately running around trying to find pallets or anything else to keep the mud at bay rather than preparing or selling food. At outdoor events where the land is used for livestock for the majority of the year, there are also issues of dangerous bacteria in the mud being walked through your kitchen.

Hidden Costs

A gazebo and a griddle do not make a mobile kitchen.

Many start up traders assume that they just need the tent and a few pieces of equipment. In one sense this is correct but it leads to a tendency for traders to go for their kitchen essentials and not consider the necessary safety precautions.

The number of gazebo traders without proper hand washing facilities is shocking and it is only a matter of time before this casual attitude to food hygiene leads to a major health scare and caterers being sued for making people ill. The Nationwide Caterers association does not want members who are prepared to take risks with public safety. If you don’t want to spend the money on a hand washing kit you are a danger to the public and should not be trading!

Durability:

Even the best made gazebo’s are only likely to offer a couple of years’ service before they start to give up the ghost. All of the packing and unpacking, the weather and accidents in the kitchen can all put paid to your gazebo, and as such, they are unlikely to have the staying power of a trailer or food truck.

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