by Nigel Hilton

The catering industry is fast and complex. For many business owners, it makes no sense to open a restaurant regardless of their culinary skills. Indeed, a variety of factors need to be considered, from your demographic audience, your location, the cost of renting or buying commercial property to the overall competition in your area. Additionally, it’s not uncommon for future restaurant owners to try out their business potential as a takeaway, mobile food truck, or even catering service before gathering sufficient funds to afford a physical restaurant. For many, a mobile business can act as a side-hustle activity alongside a full-time job, meaning that you're not putting your household income at risk while you’re trying to secure fundings for a future restaurant.

However, even though mobile and delivery opportunities offer budgeting advantages – they are cheaper to start –, they can experience huge competitive disadvantages. Indeed, regardless of the quality of your food and your cooking skills, mobile catering businesses can suffer from a bad reputation. As a result, for solo-entrepreneurs trying to save for their future restaurant, the efforts to build a brand and an audience can seem impossible. It’s fair to say that the poor opinion the market has of takeaways and delivery food trucks might have some common ground. Of course, not all fast food trucks and places serve low-quality food, but you’ve probably had a bad experience in the past at a takeaway restaurant. It’s easy to understand that your audience might have been served a terrible dish, or exposed to health risks too – the newspapers are filled with horror stories about individuals suffering from acute allergic reactions to a fast food dinner.

But don’t let it stop your success. Reversing the unfair food clichés is a challenge, but it’s not impossible if you give yourself a fighting chance.

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Work with local ingredients

The food is greasy

The typical complaint you hear about takeaway and fast food is that the dishes they serve are prepared in a grease-friendly environment. Ultimately, it would be unfair to blame our oily fingertips on the cook. The reason why a lot of takeaways and mobile food restaurants are associated with greasy cooking methods is that people ultimately are attracted to food with high-fat content. Indeed, fat supplies additional flavors – one of the most famous French sauces in Michelin-starred restaurants is called beurre noisette and consists ultimately of brown butter; in other words, every cook knows that fat makes the food extra tasty. Additionally, when your business is built on delivering food as quickly as possible, you also need to favor quick and effective cooking methods, such as frying in oil or butter. However, you can cut down your turnaround time by applying different types of process heating; catering and food preparation services can rely on hot air cooking, which provides a healthy alternative to frying. Takeaways can use wood-fired ovens for some food, for instance. Additionally, air fryers also bring an exciting alternative.

Processed food is unhealthy

When you provide meals for others in record time, you might be tempted to rely on processed ingredients to get things done quicker. It’s not uncommon for small food trucks to use frozen meat, pre-made tomato sauces, canned ingredients, etc. Unfortunately, this habit can sometimes affect the taste and the health factor of your meal, leaving your customers feeling disenchanted with the dish. Similarly, if you provide processed ingredients to other businesses – such as catering and delivery companies sometimes do – you might be at the receiving end of much criticism. You can, however, prove your audience wrong by focusing your attention on healthy alternative and processed solutions. Indeed, peanut butter, for instance, can be an excellent source of fiber and plant-based fats. Using a product that has no added sugar can encourage your customers to trust your recipes. You can also display the ingredients you use openly so that everyone can see for themselves the type of canned food and frozen vegetables you use. As a rule of the thumb, processed food is only unhealthy if it contains added sugar, fat, and chemicals.

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Show where your ingredients come from

Takeaways work with cheap ingredients

Mobile restaurants and takeaway places are often accused of maximizing their gains by choosing cheap ingredients in the first place. If you’ve decided to display the origin of each element, you can reassure your customers by working with local farmers. There are plenty of opportunities to create a solid relationship with farmers. First of all, farmers are more likely to deliver directly to your restaurant or warehouse, which makes sure you can ask all the relevant questions about each item in real time. Additionally, you can get the best price on seasonal and eco-friendly sourced fruit and vegetables, making sure you can diversify your offer throughout the year.

The delivery is late

Whether you’re delivering takeaway food, catering menus or prepared dishes, you’ve probably had to deal with an unhappy customer once in a while. Customers don’t like to wait. But, unfortunately, food delivery options can sometimes experience delays. If you want to make sure your customers are served on time, you need to keep your fleet operational and effective. Introducing tracking facilities can transform the experience for your audience, as they can see where their food is in real time. Additionally, it provides valuable information for self-improvement purposes. You should also consider your maintenance routine, not only for the delivery truck but for the cooling or heating facilities within the truck, so that the food ordered comes in the best possible condition.

Takeaways have a high impact on the environment

Last, but not least, remember that food that is designed to be taken outside of your premises isn’t served on a plate. Instead, it is packed in a variety of containers, which are more likely to pollute the environment. You need to ban plastic from your takeaway business. Alternatively, you can provide bamboo containers, cardboard boxes, and entirely sustainable straws. Your objective is to provide your customers with disposable, user-friendly, and compostable items.  

Greasy, polluting, unhealthy, late, and non-sustainable, these are some of the typical complaints about mobile, catering and fast food businesses. But, in reality, you have the opportunity to create a green, healthy, and timely food business that puts your customer interests first and transforms the market perception of the mobile food industry.