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The Low Down of Setting up a Street Food Business

Will Petre, sales manager at COLLECTIVfood, had a chat with David Gutiérrez Aznar, the man behind Guasacaca, Hermanos Taco House and The Cuban Box, to find out what the ups and downs of setting up a street food business are and how to make it successful.
 Will: What's the story behind your business? What were your first steps?
 I started out in the food service industry six years ago at Itsu, then I moved on to Bodega Negra in Soho working as a runner, where I eventually became a waiter. By now, the idea of Guasacaca was firmly planted in my mind, and I needed a way of getting it to fruition. I negotiated my hours, so I'd work three days of double shifts, giving me the rest of the week to work on Guasacaca. Boy, that was hard work, I look back and I have no idea how I did it!
Will: Then what?
 When I first set up, it was chaos — I'll be the first to admit that. I had no cash and no clue.
There are so many tricky decisions to make. Like the type of equipment; should I go for something cheap to save money, or something more expensive so it will last longer?
Even stuff like choosing my power source — should I go for electric or gas? Electric is way easier, but not all events have an electricity supply. Gas is more of a hassle, but it allows you to be self-sufficient.
Then there are things like transport. When I first started out, I was transporting equipment and ingredients in suitcases on the tube — utter madness.
Will: Wow, moving everything on the tube can't have been fun, what did you do to make it easier?
 I moved to minicabs, making sure I was using the same company each time. This turned out to be a great idea because it allowed me to build a relationship with them, and get a reliable service as well as negotiate the price.
Then, I started using Zip vans to give me more control and freedom, I didn't want to rely on someone else to run my business. This seemed like a smart move, but the problem with Zip vans is that you have to drop the van off where you picked it up. One of my first markets was Hammersmith; I'd pick up the van in Fulham, load everything into the back and drive to Hammersmith. I'd unload my gear, jump in the van and drop it back off in Fulham. Then I'd catch a bus all the way back to Hammersmith to the market. I don't miss doing that!
Now, we've got a new re-fitted van which holds all the kit and equipment, there's even space for the cool boxes!
 Will: I'm a big fan of your cool boxes, by the way. Tell me about the moment you knew you had a winning idea in your hands?
 When we finally got the right exposure.
My very first market was Deptford Street Market. That was not the right place for Guasacaca. I was selling 1 x Arepas for £3 and 2 x Arepas for £5 but people would still find it expensive.
Something needed to change.
Then, I was invited to street food market in Portobello, my first good market. I had a big queue in front of our stand and I recognised that I spotted a great business opportunity.
That was when I knew. I could feel it was going to take off, and I realised that what makes or breaks your business, is the location.
 Will: Location is important, but what about the food?
 A street food stall would be nothing without an incredible menu. Whether you're doing one thing or five things, you have to do them well and you have to do them fast.
I wanted to serve authentic Venezuelan food — arepas are done in a matter of minutes, so we can serve them quickly, giving us the opportunity for great turnover. It also doesn't hurt that people love them!
You might already know, but Guasacaca is a Venezuelan sauce made using avocado. To start with we had two types; a spicy and non-spicy option. This slowed down serving times and upped prep time, so I got rid of the spicy option. You can have spicy sauce separately if you want. Simple.
Every decision you make with your menu should be made with scalability at the back of your mind.

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