Motivate yourself with the #CatererMotivator! Who's inspiring us this week? Eatchu!

Hi Guy & Vic - Can you tell us what inspired you to get involved in the wonderful world of mobile catering?

Back in 2011, we had both worked in office jobs in London for the better part of a decade, so we decided to up sticks and move to Australia to work in iron ore mining and construction. It was a massive lifestyle change, but despite all the excitement it also made us realise that what we really wanted was to work for ourselves. Having gone through the embarrassingly short list of things we could do that people would pay us for, we decided that our love of food was the one to focus on. The next decision was that we would open up a restaurant back in the UK, but luckily a wise friend told us to have a crack at street food instead. 10 months later, we started trading in Bristol’s Harbourside Market.

Good call! You trade in the fabulous St Nick's market in Bristol centre - how did you go about securing your spot there?

We couldn’t believe it when we heard that not just one but TWO food stalls were becoming available at St Nicks! It is one of those places that we never expected to get into because once traders are in there they don’t tend to leave. Once we had taken a small tour of the two available pitches we completed our application form ensuring that it presented Eatchu at its absolute best. Lots of hi-res photos, well-written copy, and a big focus on the authenticity and originality of our product. We were thrilled to be asked in for an interview, and then a week later we were absolutely stunned to receive a phone call telling us that we had secured our preferred pitch, The Old Mess Room. Getting that call remains the happiest moment we have had since Eatchu started, and will definitely take some beating!

What was it that inspired you to sell Gyoza? What has been the reaction to it thus far?

We spent our honeymoon in Japan, and one place we visited was a tiny restaurant in Harajuku. The menu consisted of Pork Gyoza, Leek Gyoza, Rice and Chicken Broth. That was it. The queue was out the door and stretching down the laneway and once we got in and tried the food we could see why. They were focused on doing one thing and doing it well, and it was the simplicity of that menu coupled with the joy that a plate of dumplings gave us that inspired us to try it ourselves. The reaction to our product so far has been so encouraging! Loads of regulars, lots of positive buzz, all the stuff that makes you happy to see your customers every day.

Do you feel as though mobile caterers are in competition with casual dining restaurants such as Wagamamas? Or are diners looking for something different in 2016?

It feels more accurate to say that Wagamama and their ilk are in competition with mobile caterers rather than the other way around. We operate on such a microscopic scale compared to these huge national chains, however, some of them must be feeling the impact that the sheer volume of street food traders is having. Diners are certainly looking for something different and they have such a vast wealth of options now. From speaking to our customers we know that they love chatting to the people who went to the butcher this morning, prepped the veg, crimped the gyoza, and are now cooking up a fresh batch just for them. That personal element is becoming more and more important.

We couldn't agree more! How has your first year of trading gone?

We’re not even 8 months into it yet! What we’ve seen so far is really encouraging, and we’re going to keep doing everything we can to keep the customers we already have and to bring in as many new customers as possible.

What's been the hardest part of setting up your own mobile catering business?

We would say it’s the sheer amount of graft required to keep the thing running! We’ve got quite a complex and labour intensive product, so we spend a lot of time prepping. When we’re not prepping we’re building the pitch, once it’s built we’re cooking and serving, once that’s over it’s time to tear down and clean everything, then it’s getting home to do the accounts and the social media. On the “day off” we’re off to the wholesalers to buy supplies, and once we look back on the week we realise there wasn’t much of it that wasn’t wholly occupied by our business! But we love it anyway.

Do you have plans for expansion at any point?

Definitely, we still want to own a restaurant one day and hope that by the end of 2017 we will have found a suitable site. If we are lucky enough to find a place and move in we will keep the pitch at St Nicks, and hopefully, by then we will have someone trained up to run the old gazebo set up. This would give us the opportunity to work at mobile events and markets, keep the St Nicks trade, and to try out all sorts of new and interesting things in a proper bricks and mortar establishment.

Do you trade principally in Bristol or have you travelled to UK-wide events?

We’re sticking to Bristol, there will never be a shortage of events in this city!

How has your NCASS membership helped you?

Starting a catering business without a catering background was pretty nerve-wracking. Our NCASS membership really took us by the hand and led us through all the paperwork, got us set up with insurance, gave us the legal advice we needed, and then managed to supply all the equipment we needed as well. It took us 6 weeks of solid work to get from moving into Bristol to trading in Bristol, without our NCASS membership it would have been months!

Bristol is a wonderful city with a plethora of independent businesses - how is the street food scene going down there?

It’s hard to imagine a better street food scene than the one in Bristol. Incredible variety, top quality, excellent people who are all doing it because they love it, and a true sense that you are part of a community. We have loved running a business here, and are looking forward to being here for many years to come.
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Other articles you may find useful:
Starting up and running a business
Improving your business
Being the next #CatererMotivator
#CatererMotivators are all NCASS members who staff here feel are doing something worth shouting about. Want to be the next one? Email with the subject line "Make me the #CatererMotivator", tell us a little about your business and we'll get in touch as quickly as we can.
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