Starting a mobile fish and chips business could be a great way to earn a living while being a part of one of the UK’s biggest food traditions. Brits are famous for their love of fish and chips, and it’s no mystery as to why this is. The dish has been part of our diet since the mid-1800s and, according to the National Federation of Fish Friers (NFFF), British consumers eat 382 million fish and chip shop meals every year – that adds up to six servings per person in the UK.
While a fish and chips serving every two months may not seem like very much, more than one in five people visit a fish and chip shop every single week. The industry catering to this huge demand comprises a collection of over 10,500 fish and chips businesses that see a combined yearly revenue of around £1.2 billion.
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Mobile Fish and Chips
Fish and chips on the go is becoming a growing trend in the UK. Most food outlets in this sector specialise in food to take away, as customers grab a hearty meal to enjoy at home. But businesses that operate out of a mobile vehicle are becoming increasingly common too. What’s more, many of them are using the franchise model to facilitate their expansion plans.
So, there are plenty of businesses to choose from if you’re a prospective franchisee, no matter your budget, ambitions or taste. Opportunities range from the customer service-focused The Happy Plaice and the vintage-inspired Howe & Co. to the whacky StarChip Enterprise!
But why opt for a mobile fish and chips franchise over a static one? And why might you be wary? Here are the main pros and cons associated with running your own business in the mobile fish and chips sector:
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Advantages of a mobile fish and chips business
- This business model presents great opportunities for investors with a limited budget. The initial investment will be lower than if you were opening a traditional fish and chips shop, as you won’t be securing a rented retail space or paying for its utilities. That means you should be able to make a return on your investment (and reach your break-even point) sooner, boosting your profit margins and the amount that ends up in your pocket.
- Because your business will be mobile, you’ll be able to move to different territories to take advantage of the fluctuating levels of business in different areas. This is a simple way to maximise your profitability without taking drastic measures or significantly altering the business model. Perhaps you find that you can sell a lot of food outside a football stadium on match days, and further increase your income by setting up near student halls later in the evening. Subject to local regulations, this is all possible with a mobile food business.
- Working in a converted vehicle can be extremely convenient. Unlike other businesspeople, you won’t have to close up shop, set burglar alarms and leave lights on all night for security. You won’t ever have to use public transport either. You can simply jump into the driver’s seat and get going. Then, just lock up your van and leave it outside your house until the next day.
Disadvantages of a mobile fish and chips business
- If your vehicle stops working or gets damaged, you’ll miss out on business. Of course, organisations like the AA and RAC can get up and running again, but if you break down on the way to a catering session or event, you’ll be against the clock. Sometimes, you may be forced to miss events, disappoint clients and lose profits that you can never get back. You can avoid this with a towed trailer business, so consider this alternative option.
- There is a limit to the amount of stock you can purchase and transport, and to the number of staff members you can employ to work alongside you. This could mean you have to stop trading on a particular day while demand is still high. But you always have the option to buy more mobile fish and chips vehicles with a multi-franchise unit contract. To learn more about being a ‘master’ franchisee, read our information page here.
- You may find your profitability is affected by the weather. Most static fish and chips businesses in well-chosen locations benefit from a steady income stream all year. This is demonstrated by the fact that over 20 percent of people visit their local chippy every week. But, if it’s tipping down with rain, for example, consumers may be unwilling to hang around outside waiting for you to prepare their order from your catering van. However, you should be able to make up profits in the summer and at busy events, when you can encourage people to make spontaneous impulse purchases with the smell of your delicious offering.
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What you need to run a mobile fish and chips business
The process of starting a mobile fish and chip business isn’t as simple as buying a catering van and frying up fish and chips for hungry mouths. Here’s what you’ll need to ensure that your business is both profitable and safe.
- Capital: It could cost you between £20,000 and £80,000 to convert a regular van into a catering vehicle. However, if you do this, you should avoid taking on faulty or outdated equipment that could cause problems further down the line.
- Your vehicle: You should try to invest in an environmentally friendly vehicle. If you don’t, you may have to factor Low Emission Zone charges into your budget. You’ll definitely have to do this if you’re based in London. Also, passers-by will be reluctant to purchase your food if your van appears to be dirty or in poor condition, so make sure you maintain your vehicle throughout your franchise contract.
- Equipment: There are several pieces of equipment you just can’t compromise on when starting up a mobile fish and chips business. You’ll need a large refrigerator, a food waste bin and a commercial chip fryer that is relatively simple to empty and clean. You’ll also benefit from a glass-fronted fridge and a heated food display shelf to show customers your range of products. A potato peeling machine and a batter mixer will also come in handy when you’re handling a number of orders. Finally, a card reader will make payment quick and simple, and could even boost your profitability, as you’ll attract customers who don’t have cash on them.
- Certificates and insurance: You will need to hold the appropriate food hygiene certificates in order to trade as a fish and chips business. Your vehicle must also be below a certain weight and pass safety checks, including a gas and electric inspection. If you are determined to buy a vehicle that is already fitted out with the equipment you’ll require, you could use a manufacturer that is accredited by the Nationwide Caterers Association (NCASS), as they will not be able to sell unsafe or illegal equipment or vehicles without the accompanying documentation. You should also take out public liability insurance.
- Knowledge of the local area: Research has shown that mobile food businesses are particularly popular in low-income areas, where residents are less likely to dine out in restaurants than those in high-income regions. Busy high streets and city centres are also profitable sites for mobile food businesses, but they may cost more in rent. Make sure you focus on selling your food in places with heavy public footfall, but where there is limited competition from similar food outlets.
As you can see, there is plenty of potential in the mobile fish and chips franchise sector. Unfortunately, we don’t currently have any in our directory, but we can offer a huge range of other food businesses. From Italian street markets to Japanese restaurants and cosy coffee shops, there’s something to suit every budget and preference.
Alice Tuffery, Point Franchise ©