Updated: 4 days ago
If you are looking to start a food truck catering business, here are all the licenses you need to keep it legal in the UK
Street food is changing the food landscape and the way we eat. And it may feel like on every street corner there is now a pop-up food truck or food stall selling all manner of stuff.
This is what got me interested in street food, and spurred me on to start a business in this industry. But starting out, was daunting and I had a thousand questions that I needed answering. One of the main questions I had was "what licenses do I need for a food truck catering business?"
I couldn't seem to find a straightforward checklist of all the food truck licenses, permits, certificates and insurance I needed to legally sell street food in one place. I had to dig around and collate information from several different sources to find out what I needed.
So to make it a bit easier for those following in my footsteps I thought I would make a complete guide of all the licenses you need as a mobile caterer.
1. What Permits do I need for a food truck?
- Level 2 Food Safety & Hygiene
- Register with your local authority
- Have a HACCP plan in place
- Public Liability Insurance
- Risk Assessments
- LPG gas and PAT testing certificates
2. Can I sell street food anywhere?
- Prohibited Streets
- Consent/licensed Streets
3. How much is a street food license?
4. Do I need a mobile catering license on private property?
5. Can I park a food truck anywhere?
What permits do I need for a food truck?
So you got the killer idea, you've scoped your location and got your food truck or stall design together. But whether it's a food truck or street food stall you intend to use to serve your food from there are a number of certificates, permits and paperwork you need.
1. Level 2 Food Safety & Hygiene
By law in the UK, You will need a minimum of level 2 if you are handling, preparing and cooking food in the catering industry. And level 3 if you are managing and supervising a team. Getting your level 2 or 3 is pretty straight forward and you can do an online course or attend a day course at your local college.
Where: Online course (level 2) @ Learn Direct
2. Register with your local authority
Before you start selling your food you need to register as a new food business and notify your local council at least 28 days before you trade. You can do this through the Gov.uk website.
As long as you have registered you can then start trading. You will then be contacted by the health and safety executive from your local authority (HSE) for an inspection of where your food is stored, prepared and cooked. After this, you will receive a star rating (hopefully 5 stars).
Where: Gov.uk website
3. Have a HACCP plan in place
A HACCP (hazard analysis and critical control point) is a documented plan that helps to prevent and keep food safe from any biological, chemical or physical food safety hazards. In short, this means having a plan and record in place of how you store, prepare and transport your food.
You must have one of these plans in place, otherwise your local authority will automatically give you a zero hygiene rating on inspection. No matter how clean and polished your operation may be.
Where: HACCP templates can be downloaded on the Foods Standards Agency website.
4. Public Liability Insurance
This is what protects you against compensation claims from a customer, client or the general public arising from any hazard associated with the running of your business. This could be, for example, food poising, falling signage or damage to someone's else property.
The minimum public liability insurance most councils and event organizers will accept is £5 million. However, this seems to have risen over recent years, with some only accepting £10 million.
Not all insurers will cover mobile caterers or street food, vendors. There are, however,
a few insurance companies that will cover mobile catering businesses.
BG Insurance is an established insurance broker that can help you find competitive insurance quotes for mobile catering.
5. Risk Assessments
Risk assessments are required by a street food market or festival organizer, for when you make an application to trade.
This is a document that assesses all the risks associated with the running of your operation. For example, what safe access points there are in an event of a fire or if there are any trip hazards.
6. LPG gas and PAT testing certificates
Whether its a food truck or food stall you intend to sell your food from you need to make sure the equipment you are using is safe for you, your staff and the public.
If you intend to use gas appliances, such as gas hobs you will need an LPG gas certificate from a registered gas installer. Similarly, all electrical appliances must be PAT tested by a qualified electrician. However, brand new appliances are exempt for 1 year, from the purchase date.
Where: Your local gas safe registered plumber and/or a qualified electrician
Cost: * gas = between £35 and £150 depending on how many appliances you have
* electrical = between £1-2 per item, usually with an additional call-out fee
Can I sell street food anywhere?
Your food may be delicious, but You cannot just rock up anywhere and start serving the public. Local authorities have specially dedicated areas within a town or city where street food vendors can sell food to the public.
Streets and roads within cities and town are split between two main categories:
These are streets that may have access or size limitations. You cannot sell street food on Prohibited Streets and is, in fact, a criminal offence to do so.
If a street is designated as a "Licensed" or "Consent" Street, then you can make an application to your local authority and potentially pitch a food stall or food truck on one of these types of streets. Please note, it is also a criminal offence to sell food to the public without consent.
Your local authority will have a list of streets you can and cannot trade on.
If on the other hand, you have your eye on a dedicated food market, along with other food traders, you will not need a permit. This is because the event organized would have already gained permission from the relevant authorities.
How much is a street food license?
Street food licenses vary from council to council. However, normally you should expect to pay an initial admin fee of around £20 and then an ongoing daily/weekly/monthly /yearly amount as a pitch fee. Where you trade will also affect how much you pay.
To give you an example, my local council (Bristol City Council) charge £20.50 per day in central, busy areas and £10.00 outside of the central areas.
Do I need a mobile catering license on private property?
This is a very good question and confusing for many, as a lot of mobile caterers you will see are in fact on private land, in car parks, industrial estates or increasingly in office complexes.
First, you need permission for a food truck or food stall from the owner of the land or the property management company. Second, you will also need to notify your local council (which you need to do as a new food business anyway) to get a street traders license/consent.
Can I park a food truck anywhere?
As long as you have the relevant road tax and insurance you can park (but not sell from) your food truck anywhere on a public road, including your home.
However, food trucks can be at risk of vandalism or theft and most mobile food caterers have dedicated storage in garages, driveways compounds or secure car parks.
To summarise, in order to start a street food business and sell food to the public you need certain licenses and permits. Things such as a food and hygiene certificate, public liability insurance and gas and electrical safety certificates.
You also need permission from your local council if you want to trade on a particular street, as you can't just pitch up a food truck or stall anywhere.
However, getting all your licenses and permits is a pretty straight forward operation. It may take a bit of time, but as long as you work down the list you should be well on your way.