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Street Food Masterclass - an E-learning Food Platform

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terrordread

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Finding MFL and Unscripted last year was like learning that somebody had taken my thoughts and arranged them for me into a couple of books. I’m so grateful to M.J for bringing together this many like-minded outliers and creating a hyper-productive little microcosm!

I wanted to contribute to the forum and hopefully get some feedback on the idea I've started developing, but before diving into that just a little background on me. Up until March last year I was working as a chef in a pretty sought-after London restaurant. The hours were crazy long but to be honest I didn’t mind putting in 90/100 hour weeks because it felt like I was always learning and food/restaurant culture is something I’m really deeply passionate about.

That said, doing such long weeks with no route to an exit is clearly not going to lead to a happy and healthy life. As the pandemic hit the UK all hospitality was shut down and I found myself with 100% free time. I got thinking about alternative lifestyles and that’s when I discovered M.J’s books.

It became obvious that in order to get on another path, I needed to take massive action in my life. I moved to Italy for 3 months with the sole purpose of furthering my education around food and wine. I worked in a vineyard and cellar learning how to make wines and after that, embarked on an almost scientific analysis of what makes Italy so fertile for producing the rich food culture it’s famous for.

Arriving back in the UK I was totally inspired to use this experience and somehow build a business around it. So many people, I thought, are obsessed with food and so I figured this would be a good industry to dig into. Since then I’ve been working on a few things but the idea I keep coming back to is a subscription site that releases monthly content on a selected theme around street food, drink, and food production.

There would be monthly bundles of content divided into;
  1. Video content of a traditional or much loved (even if that means just locally) street food/drink vendor who gives an interview, backstory, mini-documentary style profile of themselves, their food/drink, how they started, what food means to them, and paints a picture of what it’s like to live their life. Think humans of New York but in short-form video. I would work with them to record and produce a masterclass style demo on how they make and serve their speciality, shot at their stall or truck. This would be filmed on-site and give the viewer a real feel of the hustle and bustle of being a successful food vendor.
  1. Written copy, a long-form article looking at the wider food landscape, paying particular attention to culinary history of the area, migration of people, and social role street vendors play. This written section will place our spotlighted vendor in a broader context (North Peru, Jerusalem, South India, Kurdish Iraq, etc.)
  1. Instruction/recipe for viewers to turn their hand to the technique and methods taught by the spotlighted vendor. There could be a section here of extensive footnotes giving the seasonality of ingredients, where it originates from, its history, and where to buy it, what to look for when buying.
  1. Access to the forum:
    A major part of the site will also be orientated around how to start and manage a street stall, whether it’s for food or drink. As I live in the UK, the beta version would only be able to address a British audience but as the business grows I would look at expanding the reach to cover other regions around the world, most probably North America.
The forum will include;
  1. How to - make decisions (inspired by some of the strategies I’ve learned in MJs books), find a suitable vehicle or stall, restore and customise it, and fit equipment.
  2. Licenses and inspections - a comprehensive guide.
  3. Pitches and concessions. This one I found to be a big grey area - how do you find out where you’re allowed to operate?
  4. Events and Festivals - experience and what to expect.
  5. Earnings/profit.
  6. Marketplace - services.
  7. Trend, forecasts, consumer reports - what direction is the street food wind blowing and how to get ahead of the curve.
  8. General discussion & Chat.
Mentors - pair inexperienced or aspiring vendors, cooks, beverage people to mentors. Can be food orientated or business-focused depending on the need.

Later on, I'd like to facilitate an organised program of staging (culinary interning). A culinary student or aspiring vendor would serve a number of stages (internships) organised by me and my team, with our spotlighted vendors. I think this would work well in partnership with colleges such as Le Cordon Bleu or Ballymaloe Cookery School.

Even further down the line, I would offer entire brand creation on the themes above. This would be outsourced to specialists in their respective areas. In essence, we set up and get you going with a street food or drinks business for a fixed cost.

And there you have it. I’m currently in the process of validating the idea on social media which will be where most marketing takes place.
Putting this to the FLF community, are there any glaringly obvious holes in the concept or things you can see I’m missing?

I really appreciate any feedback and fully intend to use this forum as a kind of journal to document the process of getting this business up and running.
 

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MJ DeMarco

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I like the idea, although my knowledge in this particular niche is about zero, much less, I don't drink wine.
 

biggeemac

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Great ! I am very intrigued by the street food industry. If my other business weren't going so well, I would totally get into street food vending. I love to cook, but everything I cook looks like it was cooked by an amateur in a kitchen......which it was. I want my food looking like it came right off the cart.

One area that you may want to focus on is Human Resources, and workflow. These two areas are highly overlooked in ANY business. The lack of a real workflow will seriously slow you down or frustrate you. And then there is Human Resources. Good help is hard to find, and training them can take a lot of time, especially if they work a few days or weeks and then decide to depart. Then you get to start all over again, all while you are trying to operate your business. This has been a big challenge in our current business.
 

Tiago

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I like this! I travel for food and 80% of what I watch on YouTube is about food, so I'm very much biased :)

When you say that you're validating, what exactly does that mean? How are you validating it? Upon which premise will you decide if it's a go or not?
 

Brrr

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Hey Terrordread,

welcome to the forum, great to have another UK-based person that is so passionate about food! I have a small amount of experience in this sector having ran a food stall/food truck for 3 years and that has opened a shop and is looking and getting further locations.

I just want to give you some initial feedback on your idea and what I've seen from the industry in my brief time in it:
  1. Access to the forum:
    A major part of the site will also be orientated around how to start and manage a street stall, whether it’s for food or drink. As I live in the UK, the beta version would only be able to address a British audience but as the business grows I would look at expanding the reach to cover other regions around the world, most probably North America.
The forum will include;
  1. How to - make decisions (inspired by some of the strategies I’ve learned in MJs books), find a suitable vehicle or stall, restore and customise it, and fit equipment.
  2. Licenses and inspections - a comprehensive guide.
  3. Pitches and concessions. This one I found to be a big grey area - how do you find out where you’re allowed to operate?
  4. Events and Festivals - experience and what to expect.
  5. Earnings/profit.
  6. Marketplace - services.
  7. Trend, forecasts, consumer reports - what direction is the street food wind blowing and how to get ahead of the curve.
  8. General discussion & Chat.
While forums are good and building a community is always a great idea, please take a good look at your primary competition: NCASS. They are the main association of mobile caterers and already provide a lot of resources for aspiring and existing caterers.

For people looking to get into the industry, they have a lot of info on how to get started, which I found an incredibly helpful starting point, from legal requirements to business advice. In dealing directly with them they also have some very helpful staff that you can email with questions and they will normally get back to you with some guidance.

Their paid membership allows you to have access to a specific due diligence manual (which you need to get a solid hygiene rating), which they send you every year as well as access to Hygiene certifications and courses for your staff (level 1,2,3). They also send you messages based on your pitch type to connect vendors & events.

The biggest drawback I found was their very poor UX once you logged into your account on their website, what has the potential to be a really good personal page to market your business ends up looking like a 16 year old's first website. Maybe there is something there that can be improved on.

I canceled my membership this year because I ended up needing to write my own due diligence systems and I only really do private events these days so I didn't find the membership to be good enough value for money.

  1. Video content of a traditional or much loved (even if that means just locally) street food/drink vendor who gives an interview, backstory, mini-documentary style profile of themselves, their food/drink, how they started, what food means to them, and paints a picture of what it’s like to live their life. Think humans of New York but in short-form video. I would work with them to record and produce a masterclass style demo on how they make and serve their speciality, shot at their stall or truck. This would be filmed on-site and give the viewer a real feel of the hustle and bustle of being a successful food vendor.
  2. Written copy, a long-form article looking at the wider food landscape, paying particular attention to culinary history of the area, migration of people, and social role street vendors play. This written section will place our spotlighted vendor in a broader context (North Peru, Jerusalem, South India, Kurdish Iraq, etc.)
  3. Instruction/recipe for viewers to turn their hand to the technique and methods taught by the spotlighted vendor. There could be a section here of extensive footnotes giving the seasonality of ingredients, where it originates from, its history, and where to buy it, what to look for when buying.

This to me seems like it has more potential as it has a little more focus on the customer's relationship with vendors and street food. There is a mix of quality out there and a lot of vendors are very cagey about what they do so you might struggle to find loads of vendors willing to share recipes and info, but I am sure some would love the exposure and free advertising.

I will say NCASS also produced a "Catering quarterly" magazine which they send out to all NCASS members that has vendor spotlights, articles about industry trends, suppliers, and relevant discounts. This is the only thing I really miss from my membership. They also seem to be moving into ghost kitchen advertising, buying and selling businesses and stalls, and other parallel businesses.

Sorry to sound negative in a sea of positive initial response, it's just that I think it is worth examining what is already out there before sinking loads of time into something. I have found that this is an industry that has a relatively low barrier to entry and most businesses are run on passion, once that dies out people just move on to something different after a few years. If a business finds massive success from street trading, they will generally move to a fixed premises once they have built a healthy customer base.

I will say @biggeemac identified what is possibly the biggest gap in the market: staffing.

It is very hard to find people, good people, that want to work just a summer or just a christmas or just a few events. Connecting vendors to short-term employees has the most potential as it would really solve a big need for businesses. A few contract templates and calendaring function and you have something that has some potential IMO.

I am very happy to talk about this further if you want, feel free to DM me too. All the best, you are definitely in the right place :)
 

terrordread

New Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Dec 26, 2020
8
3
14
I like the idea, although my knowledge in this particular niche is about zero, much less, I don't drink wine.
That's great, sounds like the platform could be a valuable source of culinary knowledge for you, MJ. The gap between industry knowledge and 'at home' knowledge is huge in the hospitality sector. I guess what I am trying to do with this platform is bridge the gap by making industry experience consumer-friendly.
 

terrordread

New Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Dec 26, 2020
8
3
14
Great ! I am very intrigued by the street food industry. If my other business weren't going so well, I would totally get into street food vending. I love to cook, but everything I cook looks like it was cooked by an amateur in a kitchen......which it was. I want my food looking like it came right off the cart.

One area that you may want to focus on is Human Resources, and workflow. These two areas are highly overlooked in ANY business. The lack of a real workflow will seriously slow you down or frustrate you. And then there is Human Resources. Good help is hard to find, and training them can take a lot of time, especially if they work a few days or weeks and then decide to depart. Then you get to start all over again, all while you are trying to operate your business. This has been a big challenge in our current business.
Hey @biggeemac - great to hear your feedback, thanks! Just keep on practicing and I'm sure you'll get there with the presentation. Just remember, it's all about height.

I think you've really touched on a good point here with staffing. Turnover in hospitality is ridiculously high (low wages, hard work). Solving that hurt would impact a great number of people with magnitude. Definitely going to put my head down on this.

You mind me asking what business/industry you currently operate in?
 

terrordread

New Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Dec 26, 2020
8
3
14
I like this! I travel for food and 80% of what I watch on YouTube is about food, so I'm very much biased :)

When you say that you're validating, what exactly does that mean? How are you validating it? Upon which premise will you decide if it's a go or not?
Hahaha passionate about eating, I like it, lol. A man after my own heart.

Youtube is just such a good place to go for good food content but there's also a ton of total rubbish. I want to essentially bring together the high production quality of Netflix, Masterclass, and Bon Appetite (before the scandal) into one place and put the spotlight back on the people in a more representative sort of way. After all, food is a trickle-up industry so I want to take my audience to the source, not a restaurant's interpretation of it.

As for validating the idea, I'm still very early on so currently putting together a landing page and building some sort of brand on social media to gauge interest. Once I've got an email list of a few hundred I'll begin building the website and creating ideally 3 months of content to kick things off with.

It's going to be a process of learning by doing but I have the basic skills needed to get going. I intend on bringing in a few others to help keep up with demand but that's a bridge I'll have to cross nearer the time.

If you have experience or suggestions about validation practices I'd be really keen to hear them.
 

terrordread

New Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Dec 26, 2020
8
3
14
Hey Terrordread,

welcome to the forum, great to have another UK-based person that is so passionate about food! I have a small amount of experience in this sector having ran a food stall/food truck for 3 years and that has opened a shop and is looking and getting further locations.

I just want to give you some initial feedback on your idea and what I've seen from the industry in my brief time in it:

While forums are good and building a community is always a great idea, please take a good look at your primary competition: NCASS. They are the main association of mobile caterers and already provide a lot of resources for aspiring and existing caterers.

For people looking to get into the industry, they have a lot of info on how to get started, which I found an incredibly helpful starting point, from legal requirements to business advice. In dealing directly with them they also have some very helpful staff that you can email with questions and they will normally get back to you with some guidance.

Their paid membership allows you to have access to a specific due diligence manual (which you need to get a solid hygiene rating), which they send you every year as well as access to Hygiene certifications and courses for your staff (level 1,2,3). They also send you messages based on your pitch type to connect vendors & events.

The biggest drawback I found was their very poor UX once you logged into your account on their website, what has the potential to be a really good personal page to market your business ends up looking like a 16 year old's first website. Maybe there is something there that can be improved on.

I canceled my membership this year because I ended up needing to write my own due diligence systems and I only really do private events these days so I didn't find the membership to be good enough value for money.



This to me seems like it has more potential as it has a little more focus on the customer's relationship with vendors and street food. There is a mix of quality out there and a lot of vendors are very cagey about what they do so you might struggle to find loads of vendors willing to share recipes and info, but I am sure some would love the exposure and free advertising.

I will say NCASS also produced a "Catering quarterly" magazine which they send out to all NCASS members that has vendor spotlights, articles about industry trends, suppliers, and relevant discounts. This is the only thing I really miss from my membership. They also seem to be moving into ghost kitchen advertising, buying and selling businesses and stalls, and other parallel businesses.

Sorry to sound negative in a sea of positive initial response, it's just that I think it is worth examining what is already out there before sinking loads of time into something. I have found that this is an industry that has a relatively low barrier to entry and most businesses are run on passion, once that dies out people just move on to something different after a few years. If a business finds massive success from street trading, they will generally move to a fixed premises once they have built a healthy customer base.

I will say @biggeemac identified what is possibly the biggest gap in the market: staffing.

It is very hard to find people, good people, that want to work just a summer or just a christmas or just a few events. Connecting vendors to short-term employees has the most potential as it would really solve a big need for businesses. A few contract templates and calendaring function and you have something that has some potential IMO.

I am very happy to talk about this further if you want, feel free to DM me too. All the best, you are definitely in the right place :)
@Brrr - First off I want to just thank you for taking the time to write out such a lengthy and detailed response. Please don't apologise for the realism, I asked for feedback and you over-delivered.

It's brilliant to get your insight considering you've been in the industry and seen how it works. I too have a little experience but not as much or the same as yours. I've tended to stay on the drinks side as the margins are healthy and Brits always love a good knees up.

Also a member of NCASS and don't disagree with you on just how much good info they've got out there. Guess the thing that I've never got from them is the sense of community that exists among traders in the real world which is where I thought there could be a space. That said, the plan I outlined above feels too broad after reading it back a few times and looking at the responses it's had (especially yours).

I think the most value could be delivered to guests through creating really high-quality content in the form of video, copy, and maybe podcasts too. A sort of revamped Food Network on demand but with less of the Paula Deen vibe and something much more engaging, current, and interactive. Imagine the Food Network, F*ck That's Delicious, and Ballymaloe having a three-way love child and you're pretty close to what I want to build.

Your comment really got me thinking about the whole offering of what I'm working on and actually kind of helped me understand that what's outlined above falls into addressing two camps; Content is guest/consumer focussed and Forum would be directed at business owners. As you've rightly pointed out the NCASS already provides a lot of info to business owners or soon-to-be stall traders. The piece with a much larger potential market is the content side and that's a side I think I could create the most value in, so thanks for making me consider it from another perspective.

As for the staffing problem, it's definitely a massive pain point. Over the summer I began working on the idea of a staging (interning) programme that would see young chefs posted to street food vendors for a given time, working for experience. Not exactly a new concept but the closest I could find was something the Roux Foundation runs once a year for a select few. and even then it's only for top-end Michelin restaurants so this would be quite a different take on that.
 

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