For many food-lovers, their ultimate dream is to own food business. It turns out that now might be a great time to get started. Well, most people will describe British food as bland and stodgy which is not true. This might make you feel like it’s a waste of time starting a food business in the UK.
But do they know traditional British food like fish & chips, bangers & mash, full English breakfast, Sunday roast, toad in the hole, and cottage pie among others?
Starting a food business is not as easy as it might seem. There are a lot of business operational skills that are necessary to get started.
But the steps below will guide you on what you need and what you should consider before starting a food business here in the UK.
9 steps on how to start a food business in The UK
Step 1: You should be Skilled
As much as you are excited to get started, you need to first take a good hard look at your skills and assets before jumping into starting your food business in the UK.
Passion can get you a long way but remember starting a business needs hard work too.
First-time business owners don’t know everything, so you need to develop a habit of seeking out resources for help when you come across something you do not understand how to go about it.
The food business is more than just cooking and having customers walk in and out. Just like any other business in the UK, management is a very important aspect of a business. You will have employees, finances, and even business decisions that have to be made now and then.
Remember without good management a business is more likely to fail. If your business is to succeed you need to be skilled enough to be able to manage your business.
You can always hire more skilled personnel but remember you can not trust employees fully with your business. You need to be more involved to know what’s happening in and out of your business.
Step 2: Make a Business Plan
Before making any investment in the food business, you need to do your research.
Spend a few weeks getting a deeper understanding of the broader foodservice landscape, your customer target, the latest trends, and your competitors, and start writing a business plan. You will need to do the following:
Define your target market
You need to know who your business is targeting. Whether it’s British residents, tourists, or all UK residents.
Once you have defined your target segment, make sure you understand what they buy, why they buy, where they buy from, and what can make them buy from you instead.
Define your USP
Find what makes your business stand out from your competitors. Have a look at what your competitors are doing and establish your point of competitive difference.
For instance, if you are targeting people who prefer traditional British food, make sure that you have healthy traditional British meals, not forgetting those customers who might prefer the same British meals but not the traditional way of cooking it.
Define your restaurant style
Do you want to open a bakery, coffee shop, fast food, or full-service dining restaurant?
Each one of these channels requires its unique approach, operating hours, and investments, so pick one that suits you as an individual and the work schedule that you want to have.
Select your menu offering
Think about your menu and the type of food you want to offer. Find out the latest menu trends for your target market.
Define your brand
From your logo to the design of your menu and your staff uniform, define what your business is all about and what it stands for. It makes your customers know what they can expect. Think about what you want your identity to be and make sure your brand brings that out.
Once you are done with the business plan, you need to test it. Get to your target customers and ask them for their thoughts and impressions.
Step 3: Get Finances
Not everyone who wants to start a food business has personal funding. There are lots of ways that you can get finances for your food business, especially in the UK.
Some of these ways include:
You can get a business loan from financing institutions and also from the UK government business loans.
You can apply for a UK government-backed start-up loan of $500 to $25,500 to start and grow your food business.
You can get a government business loan as long as you meet the following requirements:
- You should be living in the UK
- You should be 18 and above
- Your business should be UK-based.
The Start-Up Loans are government-backed and charge a fixed interest rate of 6% per year. You can repay the loan over a period of 1 to 5 years and there is no application fee and no early repayment fee required.
Loans from Friends and Family
You can as well turn to your family or friends for a start-up loan. This is better since you can repay the loan with no pressure. Business is a risk so you will never know how everything will turn out and since your family understands everything going on, they are more likely to give you a grace period.
Finding investors or a Partner
Instead of raising the start-up capital alone, you can find investors or a business partner.
With a business partner, you not only split finance requirements but also help in business decisions.
There are so many investors in the UK all you need is to find the ones who fit your food business and are willing to grow with you.
Just remember that a business can take up to a year before it starts making a profit. It’s always best to start small and then grow from there.
Step 4: Choose your location
The location you choose for your business will depend on several factors. Here are some of the factors you have to consider:
Depending on the size of your business, its sales, and profit projections, you need to know how much you can afford to spend on rent.
You need to think of how your customers will get to your business, on foot, by car, or by public means.
Proximity to other businesses
Competitors and other businesses can influence your traffic, so get to know what’s happening around you and how it could affect your business.
Plans for the future
Consider what that neighborhood will look like in 5 to 10 years. If there are any major development projects ongoing then the neighborhood is more likely to change in terms of development.
Think of how that can affect your food business in the UK.
Step 5: Design the layout of your space
Once you identify a perfect location for your food business, it’s time to work on the layout and design your space.
You will need to dedicate about 45-60% of the space to the dining area and about 35% to the kitchen area and the remaining space for the office.
Make sure there is a smooth flow between your kitchen and the dining area. Make sure you use decor to make your dining area look welcoming and beautiful.
Customers love to relax and take a meal in beautiful surroundings.
Step 6: Choose your suppliers
Your food business will need several different suppliers for furnishings, POS systems, bar equipment, kitchen appliances, and food supplies.
Have your short and long-term budget and go and look for your suppliers.
As much as you want quality, make sure that you negotiate hard because over-priced suppliers can minimize your margins and run your business into the ground.
You can find suppliers from wholesale retailers, local farmer’s markets, or google search for food business suppliers in the UK.
Make sure that your suppliers are trustworthy, provide quality products and do deliveries on time.
Step 7: Get your business licenses and Permits
Business regulations are different in every county and city.
Check in with your local regulatory office and consider getting legal counsel to make sure you adhere to all of your local health & safety codes and food regulations in the UK.
Get started on this process early enough since some licenses can take months to acquire.
Step 8: Start hiring employees
Think about what staff you need for your business. This should be based on the scale of your food business. This may include the HR manager, accountant, marketing and sales manager, chefs and sommeliers, waiters, hosts, bartenders, and cleaning staff.
Ensure that you have enough staff and a number your food business can manage.
Look for candidates with experience and a successful track record, who can multi-task and are efficient.
Your employees should work well under pressure because some customers are in a hurry to get back to their businesses. They should also have exceptional social skills due to their interactions with the customers.
Do background checks on your candidates and conduct several face-to-face interviews to make sure you are hiring the right staff.
Step 9: Advertise your food business in the UK
Before officially opening your food business, you need to do a fair amount of advertising to alert your local community in the UK that there’s a new eatery on the block.
You can announce your new venture in the following ways:
Building a great website
It should be easy to navigate and should have key information such as opening times, menu, a booking engine, and if you cater to special requests such as outside catering.
Using social media
Create accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and Instagram and share the news with high-quality photos of your restaurant.
Offer promotions to your first customers
You can offer a free drink or a dessert for the first 10, 50, or 100 customers.
The number of customers you select should be dictated by the size of your food business.
Do not pick a number that will leave your business at the edge. People will show up since who doesn’t love free stuff?
Final Thoughts on the Food Business in the UK
There are a wide array of food businesses you can start in the UK and the competition is quite tough.
To help you get a leg up, make sure you consult these nine steps for starting a food business in the UK.
If you pay attention to foundational steps like creating a business plan and getting your licenses and permits you will put yourself in a good position for your food business to grow.
With all that, we are going to give you one last tip for success: work hard, don’t give up, and be prepared to risk it all.
Starting a food business in the UK, especially in a developed state like the UK can be challenging and most likely an uphill battle, but in the end, nothing tastes sweeter than victory.