Running a street food pop-up restaurant: a small guide

Chimichurri steak with slaw

Chimichurri steak from Hangfire Smokehouse; one of Cardiff’s most popular street food pop-up restaurants.

Street food pop-up restaurants are all the rage these days. Some might say that the eating culture in other countries has contributed to their prominence in recent years, while others believe the desire to eat good, authentic and honest food is winning out over corporate and uniform offerings, with some attributing the increase to the movie Chef.

If you have practical cookery experience, or you have always desired to open a restaurant, just without the permanence and general responsibility it comes with, running a street food pop-up restaurant could be your (pun intended) business taste.

If this sounds like you and you’re thinking of setting up your own street food pop-up restaurant, follow these steps to make sure you’ve got the basics right:

Apply for the correct licenses for your street food pop-up restaurant

It’s important to sell food legally. Apply to your local council or authority for information about what licenses you need, and how to apply for them. Your business will likely need inspecting before this happens, so make sure to hone your menu, gain a competent understanding and qualification in food hygiene (you can study and qualify for this online,) and equip your truck or kitchen with all the necessary equipment to cook and clean in a hygienic way.

Wood-fired pizza topped with salmon and dill

Cardiff-based Dusty Knuckle Pizza Co. was named the UK’s top 3 ‘pop-up to permanent’ by The Sunday Times in 2017

Being hygienic and selling safe food is even more important than making good food, as usually you cannot do the latter without completing the former. Both yourself, and any staff you intend to employ, should be well-trained in these matters.

Permanence in contact

While your street food venue might only be trading for a limited period, like touring around the country as part of a celebration or event, for example, you never know when you may need to rely on your brand image again. Just because you operate temporarily, don’t forget about the reputation and brand image you’re building over time. If you can, open channels of permanent contact.

This can be hard when temporary or on the move, so be sure to open up social media profiles and digital postal mailbox allowances, as well as a dedicated office manager if you need further administrative help. This could potentially net you future catering deals or partnerships with other businesses who may be looking to have their products featured. While you might only be in it to sell great food, you don’t want excellent opportunities to pass you because they were unable to reach you in the first place.

Jerk chicken and rice n' peas on sale on a stall at Notting Hill Carnival

Jerk chicken and rice n’ peas on sale at Notting Hill Carnival. Credit: Skye Class, SkyeTravels

Cook your heart out

The blessing and the curse of street food venues is that they live and die by the quality of their food alone. While a restaurant might have atmosphere, service, promotions, drinks and a certain reputation working for it, a street food pop-up restaurant is instantly judged by how well the customers around the place receive it. For this reason, your menu should be the bible of your project. If you’re getting into this it’s unlikely you have a middling opinion of the food you made, but even then taking all steps necessary to improve through taste-testing and seeing what hits will always work wonders.

Do you enjoy eating street food? Would you ever open your own street food pop-up restaurant? 

'How to set up a street food pop-up restaurant' (pizza from Dusty Knuckle Pizza Co.)

This is a collaborative post.


  1. quitelocal
    February 3, 2018 / 7:59 pm

    Love street food. We often have stalls doing food from around the world 50 meters from the office. Great to taste different flavors and cooking styles. Vietnamese is my favorite at the moment:)

    • February 4, 2018 / 12:29 am

      That sounds lovely. I wish I was based near there! I haven’t tasted authentic Vietnamese food before.

  2. February 3, 2018 / 8:42 pm

    This sounds incredible!! Honestly kudos for you for opening this!! I love it when festivals or celebrations have street food because it brings a little bit of everything into one place. I’m a terrible cook but I’d definitely support a local pop up street food restaurant!

    • February 4, 2018 / 12:28 am

      I don’t have my own pop-up restaurant! I was just asked to write about it 🙂 I love the local street food scene in my area, so it’s a topic I feel passionate about.

  3. February 3, 2018 / 10:11 pm

    I keep trying to persuade my Other Half that he should do something like that. He’s Spanish and the most incredible cook, he would be brilliant at a pop up restaurant.

    • February 4, 2018 / 12:27 am

      It sounds like such an exciting prospect if you love to cook, especially if you can offer authentic cuisine.

  4. lukeosaurusandme
    February 4, 2018 / 10:38 am

    I love street food, there’s something really special about it and I’m so happy to see it becoming more and more popular in the UK. Your photos have also made me really hungry – just look at that pizza! Yum.

    • February 5, 2018 / 2:05 pm

      I make myself hungry sometimes, haha! I try to never write a food post on an empty stomach.

  5. Bethany
    February 4, 2018 / 10:58 am

    The atmosphere of street food is amazing, I’d love to do this at some point

    • February 5, 2018 / 2:05 pm

      I agree, there always seems to be a good vibe at these street food events.

  6. February 4, 2018 / 8:11 pm

    All this food looks delicious I think this type of pop up restaurant is such a good idea.

    • February 5, 2018 / 2:03 pm

      I love going to street food events and visiting pop-ups – I always get to try something a little out of the ordinary.

  7. bavariansojourn
    February 4, 2018 / 9:51 pm

    There are quite a few around here in all shapes and sizes. I have been meaning to pop over to the science park on a Friday lunch time where they all pitch up for the day, lots of delicious lunch time treats there! 🙂

    • February 5, 2018 / 2:01 pm

      That sounds amazing! Whereabouts are you?

  8. February 4, 2018 / 11:28 pm

    I do enjoy street food. Never thought about starting my own restaurant

    • February 5, 2018 / 2:01 pm

      I love street food too, but I don’t think I’m calm enough to run a restaurant. It must be quite a stressful job at times.

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