Supplier Spotlight: Amobox

Amobox create portable kitchens, mobile bars and retail kiosks that capture your brand’s identity and create memorable experiences for your customers.

From custom-made towable containers, to cool conversions of anything from a Fiat 500 to a horsebox, Amobox will bring your mobile business to life with a design and build that helps you stand out from the crowd.

We caught up with founder Matt Amodio for a chat around how he has led the business through Covid-19, what advice he would give to start-ups and what he thinks the future holds for the street food industry.

Hi Matt, we caught up with you last year pre-lockdown to see how you were getting on. What’s changed in the past 12 months?

We moved to a bigger building for a start; we’d outgrown the last one and whilst we were getting lots of work in, we had a limit on how many people we could employ due to the size of our HQ. We took the decision to address the issue by moving premises and employing Joe to help us with design and comms. We’re still very inbound led with enquiries and don’t have a sales team, which, I think, is testament to the work we do.

What is different to the way you work from other businesses?

We come very much from a design process and going through a journey with our clients. Our aim is to make products look stunning rather than make lots of money from it. I would prefer if clients brought equipment to us and we could work with them throughout the whole process; it makes things much more efficient in the long run.

We aim to build long term relationships; clients are very loyal to us and refer us to other people which we are very grateful for. We’re still a family business and I think that makes our approach slightly different because I trust my whole team so much. I know I can step away for a day and the business will be well looked after. Our whole team has really bought into the family values and the whole ethos of “if it’s (a finished product) not good enough for your home then it’s not good enough for your clients.” We get jobs come over to us that are half done and the attitude from other businesses is often “we had a bigger job come in and we had to send them somewhere else.” For us, the main focus is on customer service and making sure our clients can build a relationship with us.

Do customers come to you with their branding set in stone?

Some come to us with a strong understanding of where they are, others come blind and we enable them to get to a stage where they’ve got a good idea of where they want their branding to go and what they want out of a mobile set-up.

We’re very much here to help them with the whole setup of starting a food business; we can put them in touch with developers, graphic designers and of course, NCASS, so we really help people on that journey.

Do people starting out generally think about the food truck first?

Definitely, they think about the budget for a truck first. We do recommend they think about the other aspects of the business as well though; for example, if they’ve got a budget of £15k, the value in getting the right branding and website put together is as valuable to their business as the truck. They should want to show off that company in a way that will generate more sales for them and a lot of the time the best way to do that is to put together the whole package.

What advice would you give to start-ups?

Have a strong idea of where you will be selling, there’s no point in spending loads of money if you end up spending the first few weeks in a terrible location that just doesn’t fit your business. If you’re doing pubs or train stations for example, then the quality of products being offered become even more important than if you were, let’s say, a random roadside pitch.

You should also have an idea of how you’re going to go out to market. If you’re doing weddings, then your website will be one of the main selling points.

Our advice changes depending on who we’re talking to and what they want to achieve; we get people coming to us unsure of where they want to go with the business and our first question is “are you fitting this in around a 9-5 job,” because if you are, you need to start small.

Budget is a massive consideration and you really need to make sure you can make your money back on a van quite quickly. It’s really important we’re honest with our clients because we want them to succeed.

How has your customer base changed since you first set up?

We’re seeing a lot more Michelin star chefs coming through moving into street food which is a testament to the industry as a whole. There’s been a real shift in people’s attitudes towards street food and it’s gone very much from the greasy food of the 80’s to bringing high quality ingredients to the street. With the effects that Covid-19 is having on restaurants we’re seeing more people starting up their own street food business.

Do you think the mobile catering industry has got a good future?

Yeah, I think we’ve only just scratched the surface, street trading as a whole is getting bigger. In Belgium and the Netherlands for example you go to markets to buy expensive clothes and I think the whole culture is changing around what people think of street trading. We see trends 12 months ahead in our job and mobile is the word at the moment. People are frightened of commitment to do bricks and mortar.

People also love to support local – even more so during the pandemic – and I think people will continue to support independent businesses post-Coronavirus. A positive position for our client base is that people still want to spend money; this recession if you like has not been caused by a financial crash, it’s a health one. People can’t go out for dinner like they usually would but they still want that “treat,” which is why they’re getting takeaways from their local indies and the money is being put back into their local area.

Dragon ovens for pizza is a core part of what we do and that’s a cuisine that will always be popular. Recently, we’ve seen Asian inspired dishes spring up and there’s more demand these days for American style hot wings and chicken.

People coming into the industry always want coffee machines, but unless you’re specialising in it, we wouldn’t recommend it. There’s a common theme is that it’s easy money but it’s not.

What would you say to people looking at starting their own street food business?

There’s no better time to do it than now and there’s no better feeling than knowing you have earnt your money yourself. People’s interests are becoming their jobs. There isn’t any other business where there’s no long-term commitment other than street trading.

There’s a rise in people going into the mobile market now. For a lot of them it’s been an interest for some time and they’ve found that they’ve been put on furlough and have taken the opportunity to use the time to think about changing their lives. Covid-19 has definitely given people the opportunity to step back and think about what they want to do, that break has inspired people to go ahead with their dreams.

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