A no-nonsense guide to finance for catering trailer owners

How To

Every person who wants to own a catering trailer or vehicle, needs to be able to fund their future mobile business. When starting out and calculating costs for your business. It can be very easy to forget things to put in your budget to help you make your calculations. We've compiled a list for you to look over to help you get your sums right.

To start a catering business you need a good idea, guts and determination. It offers many benefits, the ability to be your own boss, and with the right idea in the right place a very good income. When you are bringing an idea to life you need to get a realistic idea of what you need in order to give yourself the best chance to succeed and to know before you trade what costs to be expecting.

To help you get an idea of your day to day running costs and indeed your investment costs always look at your menu.

start with your menu

What makes you unique? What makes you stand out from the competition? Really think about what you are wanting to serve. Not only will this determine what you need (and therefore what goes into your trailer), it will also help you to work out the costs of ingredients. From this you can work out what to charge for your goods, your potential profits and how much you need to sell from day to day to break even and make a living wage you are happy with.

Your upfront costs before starting out:

  • Trailer/van
  • Trailer/van conversion, equipment and fittings
  • Food safety/ hygiene certificate
  • Registering with Environmental Health
  • Registering your business before you trade
  • Gas/electricity safety certificate


The bulk of the upfront cost is the trailer itself. By buying the trailer outright you can save yourself from paying monthly costs. This means you have fewer outgoings to enable you to break even and make a profit as you learn the ropes. Saying that trailers can be quite a costly upfront investment so you may feel more comfortable allocating your savings to help you pay for a loan as you find your feet.

Another way to get the money for your venture (which we've found seems to be the more favoured option) is to get a lease/finance. The benefit is that you can get the product straight away, its cheaper than using an overdraft, it is tax efficient and the interest rates are fixed.

There are many companies that you will lend money for you to purchase a new trailer or conversion, so if this is the route you want to go down, make sure you look around for the business that has the lowest rates. It's also worth mentioning that a bank loan might be an effective option.

Day to day running costs

Set up a spreadsheet or look for a business plan template and work out day to day costs.

Here is where you plan all of your costs, work out how much you have to charge and how much you have to sell to make your business profitable.

  • Food and sundries for day to day (plus emergency budget for extra if you run out)
  • Petrol
  • Pitch Costs
  • Trading Licence
  • Insurance (Public liability/Trailer)
  • Money to set aside for maintenance
  • Accountancy fees (although not essential we have been told that they are well worth the money spent)
  • Employee costs
  • Mobile phone contract

Tips to help you succeed:

  • The right pitch - check out your options for pitches. Go there at different times of day, see the footfall to the area and potential client base.
  • Serve Tea - Tea is a steady stable earner for a mobile business and as a general rule serving a cuppa makes business sense.
  • Get social - If you are new to the area promote yourself on social media and let people know what you serve and where to find you.
  • Be prepared to walk around with nibbles to get people coming to you.
  • If you are going to do organised festivals/events be aware that you need to book ahead look into dates and set reminders to get the application in quick as they can be competitive.
  • If you are wanting to do private events look for local opportunities others might not have exploited such as community fetes.

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