02 | Apr | 14

Richard Johnson

Good Advice

People are forever asking us about how to get started. And, sure, we tell them the best we can. But then we tell them to ring NCASS. The Nationwide Caterers Association (NCASS) has helped over 700 start-up catering businesses each year. We love them. They’re sponsoring the Best of the Best at the British Street Food Awards, and they’re a thoroughly decent lot. They are the longest established and most widely recognised membership organisation in the catering industry. The most common question they get asked is “how much do I tender for an event?” and it’s probably the most difficult one to answer. NCASS’ initial advice is to always ‘cut your teeth’ on a few small events first. Don’t even think of tackling or tendering for a big event until you are sure that you can handle it. More newcomers lose money on big shows than make it – they hear all the tears on the phone afterwards. ‘I threw hundreds of pounds of stock away’, ‘I didn’t even cover my rent’, ‘there weren’t enough people’, ‘there were too many caterers’. The first thing to remember is that event organisers and catering concessionaires (people who have the catering rights for an event and sub let the ones they don’t want) are in it for one thing – to make money and a few (not the majority thank goodness) have little morals about doing it.

If you are looking to tender for new events and shows this season, please find below some useful tips and advice courtesy of NCASS:

1: ALWAYS find out from the event organiser the following things:
a. How many people they are expecting
b. How many people they were expecting last year and how many actually turned up
c. How many caterers are going to be there and what type of caterers they are

2: Do your research with other Caterers. Find out:
What was the event like last year?
How much did the Event Organisers overestimate the attendance by?
Did they make a profit?
Would they do it again?

3: If it feels dodgy, it usually is, so forget the greed or the desperation and WALK AWAY.

4: Know how much you can afford.

5: Try to get agree a percentage basis if you can as it is less risk for you. This means rather than agreeing a fixed rate say £1000, agree to a percentageof your takings, say 20% – 25% anything more WALK AWAY.  However be aware that this is of your takings not profits. Many event organisers are willing to do this now-a-days, especially the genuine ones.

6: Ask to see a ground plan and get them to commit which pitch you are applying or paying for. Most good organisers will have all this figured out, if they haven’t maybe you should have a good think about it.

7: Never just agree over the phone or on a hand shake GET IT IN WRITING otherwise you haven’t a leg to stand on if things don’t happen the as you want it to. Ensure that you have it confirmed
Expected Attendances
Number of other units that are going to be attending
Rate or Percentage Agreed
Your location / position at the event

8: Don’t Cheat. Most Event Organisers know that small traders will try to under estimate their earnings (if you’re paying a percentage of your revenue as rent). Therefore they will keep an eye out. Many have been around long enough to tell you how much you have taken, even before you have emptied the till.

9: NEVER EVER pay more than 20% deposit unless you are within a couple of weeks of the date, it wouldn’t be the first time a bogus organiser cooked up an event, got thousands in deposits and then disappeared. Think through these bullet points before committing to anything:
a) Have I got the experience to make the money I would need to cover the rent, my stock and wages?
b) Do I know how much money I need to take to break even?
c) Is my unit big enough to serve at least 200 portions an hour?
d) Will I need to find lodgings for myself and the staff and at what cost?
e) Can I carry enough stock to get me through the event and take the money I need to?
f) Can I get the staff?

10: If in doubt call NCASS. We’ve 30 years of experience of shows and events and know every trick in the book and know most of the major event organisers. This is one of our services to our members.
NCASS has helped caterers start their businesses for over 30 years and assists over 700 start-ups every year including:
Support and Advice – Providing essential support and advice in helping traders Be Safe, Legal and Profitable.
Systems, Policies & Procedures – NCASS provide everything a Street Food trader needs to operate their business Safely & Legally, from Risk Assessments to Due Diligence Systems to Training Programs to Insurance. They can provide it all. And best of all approved by Government giving you and your business peace of mind.
Save Money & Make Money – NCASS can help you save money by negotiating discounts for you, from products, services to Insurance providers. NCASS works hard to create more markets, shows and events in the country in order to create work opportunities for their members.
NCASS represent the industry and lobby to local and central government to create more opportunities to trade and improve standards.

NCASS cannot except liability for any loss in any form by using the information in these guidelines.
Interested in becoming a member? For further details please visit: www.ncass.org.uk or Tel: 0121 603 2524

Article kindly supplied by NCASS – www.ncass.org.uk