A checklist of all the equipment you need to easily start a food stall business
Starting out in the street food business can be daunting and you will probably have a thousand questions you need answering. From what food to sell to where to sell it from.
One of the first questions you will probably have is “what equipment do I need for a food stall?”. The basic equipment you need, no matter what you intend to sell, is a pop-up gazebo, a van, catering tables, and handwashing facilities.
There are a few other basics you will need and more specialized equipment depending on what food you intend to sell to start a food stall.
In this article, I will tell you the full range of basic equipment you need along with a general list of equipment for cooking a range of different foods. From cold storage and hob burners to rice cookers and BBQs.
Street food stall equipment: The basics
There are a number of ways you can sell food when you are a mobile caterer. From a food truck, food trailer or cart or from a pop-up gazebo (food stall). It is the last one I will focus on because it is the quickest and cheapest to start.
1. Pop-up Gazebo
Very easy to set up and the cheapest way to start a street food business. They come in a number of different sizes, 2.5m x 2.5m /3m x 3 m/4 m x 8m.
Go for a 3m x 3m industrial-grade gazebo as this is the average size for street food markets and the pitch fee is also dependent on the size of your stall.
A gazebo that I have used and recommend is the heavy-duty and waterproof, “Maximus 3m x 3m market stall, pop-up gazebo”.
As a mobile caterer, setting up and packing away at each food market or event you will need transportation, namely a van. Starting out you can either hire a van to avoid the upfront costs of buying a van outright or get a second-hand one.
You can probably get away with a small to a medium van at the beginning, but as your equipment list grows so will your logistical needs.
3. Catering Tables
You will need work surfaces to prepare, cook and serve your food. Go for the pop-up stainless steel tables as they look more professional and are easier to store and clean.
These are a bit more expensive than, plastic, pop-up tables, but in my experience well worth the investment as they last a very long time.
I’ve written a separate article on the 5 best folding tables for food stalls that hopefully will be useful to you.
4. Cold storage
Whatever you intend to sell you need to keep your foodstuff fresh. This is particularly important when you are trading over the summer on hot days and when you anticipate busy periods and will need surplus stock.
There is nothing worse than running out of food or drink when you still have hours of trading left and people want your food.
Most traders on food stalls use portable cool boxes for cold storage, which come in a variety of sizes, from around 30L up to cool chests of 120L. A mid-sized cool box is probably suitable at the beginning.
I use the “Igloo Unisex’s Polar 120 Coolbox, White, 114 Litre”. It keeps things cold for around 12-24 hours and gives you plenty of room to store stock.
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5. Handwashing facilities
You need running warm water and a separate area for handwashing and utensils by law in the UK (check your local laws if outside the UK). You can get mobile hand washing units which you fill with hot water and stay warm for a period of hours.
You can also go for a pop-up sink, with an electric pump and kettle if you want something a bit more extensive.
6. Insurance & Certificates
Again to sell food to the public from a food stall you need certain insurance and certificates by law in the UK (check your local laws if outside the UK).
A list of what you need includes:
- Public Liability insurance – This covers you for any claims against your business.
- Food Safety & Handling Certificate – A day course online or at your local college. This ensures you understand the risks associated with transporting, storing and cooking foods.
- HACCP Plan – This shows you have a system in place for how your food is transported, stored and cooked.
- Register with your local Council – A food and hygiene officer will visit you at your home/kitchen/food truck and give you a hygiene rating. Having a HACCP plan is very important for getting a rating. If you don’t have one you automatically get a zero, no matter how clean your business is.
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7. Cleaning equipment
It seems pretty obvious but when starting out and having a thousand things to do, this one can be easy to forget. I know it all seems like a drag, but once again by UK Law, you need to use a disposable blue roll and an anti-bacterial surface cleaner and a separate sanitiser.
This will be important for your star rating when you are inspected by the local authority who will ask how you clean your set-up.
As street food becomes more popular amongst the masses, so increases the competition from other food traders. You, therefore, have to stand out amongst the crowd. This involves large signage above your stall clearly stating what you sell.
You obviously need to tell people what you are selling, which involves designing and creating a menu. A good tip is for your menu to be big and clear enough for people to see at a distance or when there are crowds.
10. Equipment storage
As mentioned in the beginning you will need transportation to move all this equipment. You will also need storage, especially if you are hiring a van. You, therefore, may want to consider a garage or dedicated storage facility.
Even if you buy a van, the amount of food stall equipment will grow over time (I assure you it will), which means you will need additional space to store it.
11. Food Storage
Most food can be cooked on-site from a food stall, but You will most definitely need some sort of food storage, whether at home or in a dedicated prep kitchen.
12. Gas or electric?
You need to decide what you will run your food stall equipment off. Gas can be cheaper to run than electricity but is a bit more expensive to set up.
You will also have to take into consideration that most food markets have an electrical capacity that is allocated to each trader. This may, therefore, limit what equipment you can use.
13. Gas canisters
If you go for the gas option, you will need propane or butane gas canisters. You can get these in a range of sizes from 3.9kg to around 19kg.
Street food stall equipment: A general list
14. Grill or Griddle
Suitable if you are thinking of selling grilled cheese sandwiches, hot dogs or burgers.
Good for hot dogs, burgers, jerk chicken and general meats.
Think potato fries, halloumi fries, fried chicken – Anything you need to fry really.
17. Cast iron hob/rings
If you intend to make curries, soups, stews or cook anything in a wok or pan you will need one of these. Go for the industrial-grade cast iron hobs as they last a long time.
18. Rice cooker
Does exactly what it says on the tin. For cooking rice to go with curries or chillies.
You will need a large capacity rice cooker to keep up with customer demand for events, such as the “Buffalo CB944 Buffalo Rice Cooker, 23 L”.
This is not essential equipment and to be honest, most event organizers provide some sort of seating. You may want to consider seating, however, if you plan to trade as a stand-alone unit.
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How much does it cost to start a food stall?
Starting a food stall as opposed to buying a food truck or trailer is the cheapest option and the best way to test an idea without risking loads of money. For the basics and some general equipment, you are looking at around £3000 – £5000.
- Second hand-Van – £2000 – £3000
- Gazebo (industrial grade) – £100 – £400
- Catering tables – £150 – £300
- Handwashing facilities – £100 – £200
- Insurance/Certificates – £200 – £250
- Signage (banner) – £60 – £120
- Menu – £30 – £60
- Grill/griddle – £200 – £400
- Cast iron hob – £40-80
TOTAL (APPROX) = £5000
You will also have to factor in ongoing costs, such as storage.
There are ways to cut this cost by hiring a van, instead of buying and sourcing some of the equipment second-hand.
Things like stainless steel catering tables are ok to buy second-hand as they don’t have any complex moving parts. However, when buying electric or gas equipment buys it brand new.
Where to buy food stall equipment?
Mobile catering can be a niche industry which means there are only a handful of suppliers solely dedicated to catering equipment.
You can source things like cool boxes and gazebos from Amazon but if you are based in the UK, then Nisbets is hands down the best place to buy your mobile catering equipment.
It has a huge range of products and you can pretty much get everything you need for a street food business in one place.
This makes things a lot easier than trying to source bits of equipment from a range of sources.
So there you have it, a basic list of the food stall equipment you need, regardless of what food you intend to sell, to a general list that is more food type-specific.
This is just an overview, however and as you go along in your food trading career you will most likely find you need more equipment, especially as your needs change. But for now, this list will surely get you well on your way!