Much like pop-up restaurants, food vans and food trucks have had somewhat of a makeover in the past decade. Thanks to their presence at festivals, markets and in warehouse-esque open dining halls, like Manchester’s Society and London’s Spitalfield venues, food trucks are an increasingly popular way to try new cuisines.
But starting your own food truck requires a lot of thought, especially when it comes to rules and regulations. A big practical consideration being ‘can I park my food truck anywhere in the UK?’.
After all, what good is having the coolest food truck in the country if you can’t park anywhere without being moved on or even fined? In this guide, we’ll explain what you need to know about:
- The rules and regulations that decide where you can park your truck in the UK
- What permits you might need
So if you’re planning on starting up your own food truck, don’t go anywhere until you’ve read this.
Where can I park my food truck in the UK?
Owning and running a food truck seems like it should open up a Wild West of opportunities for you, able to go wherever there’s the demand for whatever your speciality is, but the reality isn’t quite as simple as pulling in and opening up.
Registering your food business
There are several regulations you need to follow to operate a food truck, starting with registering with your local authority as a food business. It’s free and you can’t be rejected but you need to do it at least 28 days before you plan to start operating.
As a food truck owner, you may well want to move around to find the best areas to operate so it’s important to remember that you need to register with each local authority you will be working in.
You may also need to get a street trading licence and will need to contact the local council in each area you want to trade to find out if you require one, how much it might cost and how long the waiting list is. Trading without a licence can earn you a fine of up to £1,000.
Parking your food truck
Those are the basics you need to get sorted - along with certificates for food safety and hygiene, public liability insurance, risk assessments, etc, but can you park your food truck anywhere in the UK?
The simple answer is ‘no’, you can’t just park wherever you want and start trading. With towns and cities, local authorities have designated areas where street food vendors can operate as well as prohibited streets where you absolutely cannot work.
Prohibited streets tend to be designated as such due to access or size limitations which means it would be potentially dangerous to have a food truck parked down there. If you try to park in one and start selling food, you’re risking being found to have committed a criminal offence.
Getting a street trading licence from the local authority means you’ll be allowed to operate on licensed streets, but you would still need to gain consent from that local authority to trade there. If you don’t have their consent, that’s also a criminal offence.
The only time you don’t need official consent to park somewhere and trade is during a food market or similar event, where the organisers will have gained that consent already.
Lots of food trucks operate in retail centre car parks where they can guarantee a steady footfall, but these also aren’t places you can just arrive and start trading without permission. You need to contact the owners or operators of those car parks and get their consent, as well as having the street trading licence from the council.
It’s perfectly legal to park your truck in these car parks of course, or anywhere else you might park a vehicle, as long as you have permission to park there and follow the rules, pay the fees, etc. But be very clear, this allows you to park, not to trade.
Do you need a permit to park a food truck?
There are several permits and certificates you need in order to be able to operate a food truck, including:
- Level 2 Food Safety and Hygiene Certificate
- Business car insurance certificate
- Public liability insurance certificate
- PAT (portable appliance testing) certificate
- LPG test certificate
But do you need a permit to park a food truck? As you might have guessed from the previous section, it depends on where you are parking it and what else you’re doing while parked there. You would need a parking permit to park the truck anywhere that you’d need a permit to park any other vehicle, for example, but this wouldn’t be enough to cover opening the hatch and selling food.
If you have enough room on your own property to park a food truck, you certainly wouldn’t need a permit to park there, but even there you would still need the appropriate licences from the local authority to sell food to the public.
As mentioned above, if you are planning to park and operate from a specific location, you would need to check with the local authority and/or landowners to receive their permission to do so, which can incur a cost. You also need to be careful to make sure you are not operating on a prohibited street or area of a town or city.
As a rule, before planning to try and park your food truck somewhere and sell food, you need to always do your research to find out who you need permission from to trade there. So whether it is a shopping centre car park, a business estate or a public road, this should be as important as the research you do to identify pitches that are likely to be successful in terms of footfall and potential audiences.
Not getting the right permissions, licences and permits in place could result in hefty fines or even criminal convictions, all of which would leave a sour taste in the mouth, no matter how delicious your street food concoctions might be.