“We recently reached out on twitter and touched base with some of the street food traders who grow & produce their own Street Food with provenance & ethics up high on their menu!”
We caught up with Sue & James from Safari Event Catering & Sauces…. here they tell their story so far and how they have the “Very Thing” that makes a successful street food & mobile catering business!
What tempted you to start your own mobile catering business?
While originally from Scotland, I grew up in South Africa and knew first hand about all the wonderful flavours that were available. From quality meats (our game meats are lower in fat and higher in protein than most ‘standard’ meats) to a spice palette that reflects the wide variety of influences in Southern Africa (African, Indian and even Malay). Our first priorities are always quality and flavour. There are some other companies selling game meats but our menu and what we do with our foods make sure that while you may have to queue, you will walk away happy.
What type of stall/vehicle/van set up do you have for your venture and why did you choose this set up?
We have our giraffe print ‘kitchen on wheels’, christened ‘The Very Thing’ as when we saw it (sans paint job and a bit of DIY) those were the first words out of my mouth. Pulling The Very Thing comes the (quite unimaginatively named, for us) Zebravan, which holds all of our dry stores, refrigeration and now wears a very fetching solar hat. For larger events we include a service tent to one side, allowing us the space to expand our cooking area and menu. Our design style is best described as Rustic Charm (although I prefer Ramshackle Elegance). Shiney things are for magpies, give me something with character!
Have you had any previous experience in mobile catering?
Not a jot, we’re just making this up as we go along. That said, it’s certainly going along well.
Do you grow, make, catch or forage your own produce for your business?
Of course we make our own Safari Sauces, which came about from years of people asking where they could buy the sauces we used at Safari Event Catering. We started with a core range of four sauces, starting from mild up to extra hot and have plans to release around six more throughout 2014 (we are a sauce company, not a chilli sauce company and our use of chillies is flavour focussed rather than heat based). It’s probably also worth mentioning at this stage that the exotic game we use comes from managed game reserves in South Africa. They are free range and the money raised from meat sales and safari’s ensures that vast tracts of savanna are preserved and not taken over for agriculture.
How are you finding the Industry now, in terms of finding work / events?
We’ve built up a reputation over the last few years for providing top quality food with great service and presentation. As we’ve launched our sauces this year we were going to concentrate on our favorite 10 catering events/festivals and put the rest of our energy into promoting Safari Sauces. However in this game we’ve learned that plans rarely, well, go to plan… We keep getting offers for events and as Safari don’t like to disappoint we are now doing around 20 food and music festivals ranging from Henley to Inverness along with 30 or so sauce events. I guess we’ll try to hibernate in the Winter. Business wise the last few years have been tough for everyone, what with the down turn in the economy and some freakish weather conditions. That said 2014 looks to be on the upturn and since Safari bring the sunshine whatever the weather I’m guessing this year should be our best ever.
What makes your business stand out from the crowd?
I suppose a business mind would tell you that your strategy should be easy and cheap. Buy low sell high? When Safari started we threw those rules out the window. We put in the extra effort and our customers seem to notice and appreciate this (and our prices are very reasonable 🙂 We are strictly DIY and everything you see from our design to build comes from us. Oh yeah, and we drive around in an old Zebra print van pulling a giraffe print trailer, that gets a few looks on the motorway.
Have you won any awards?
Over the course of an event we get lots of repeat custom and loads of people telling us we have the best food on site. That’s the only accolade we need.
Do you supply wholesale/retail to other traders or fixed retail premise?
Our sauces are stocked in a number of North east retailers and we also supply wholesale sauces for companies to use in their products. We have a few other plans for the future which we’ll have to keep under our hats for now but we’re pretty flexible so if you need something, get in touch.
Festival organisers are looking for traders with good ‘Green’ credentials, do you use biodegradable products etc..please explain.
Where do I start? We do it all from re using old vehicles/materials to solar/human power to preservation of habit for the exotic animals we promote. More details can be found on our website, although this is well overdue for an overhaul (turns out there are only 24 hours in a day, we want more!)
What resources do you use to find events / advice / legislation etc.. for the day to day running of your business?
When we started we spent around 3 months trawling the internet for events we thought we would enjoy and that would enjoy us. Some worked, some didn’t. To be honest now we have more offers than time. We could expand and do three events a week but with expansion comes dilution and we refuse to compromise on quality. With the help of friends, family and google we get all the advise we need.
Has your journey so far lived up to your expectations?
Our Journey so far has been amazing! This is our 4th year in this industry and we have achieved so much from our very first event – 60,000 people at the finishing line of the Great North Run, oops! But as Bruce Lee said; “You can’t learn to swim standing on the beach.” Catering is hard. If it’s not then you’re not doing it right! Camping, 20 hour days, lying awake at 4 AM waiting for the dance tent to finish so you can sleep. But with a good crew and a bit of imagination the possibilities are endless! My finest moment was driving into the sunrise listening to death metal after four long days and nights of mayhem realising that all the hard work I had just done was for me and not for my old managing directors new sports car. It don’t get better than that guys.
We were thrilled to bits when Safari kindly sent us 3 bottles of their sauces for the team to try out, we love presents, who doesn’t? 😉 The Zulu Susu which is beautifully earthy and chilli free, theres a hint of black pepper that comes through at the end, it went down a storm at our family bank holiday BBQ when we served it as a dip, and brushed onto chicken wings sent them soaring with the youngest members! The chef of the team, aka Chris P Batter conjured Chakalaka Cod using the Chakalaka Sauce, scored a maximum ten from all the team and the citrus tang really worked well in giving the Cod flavour, sorry Chris the accolade for that goes to Safari on this occassion… Last but by no means least, the Muti sauce, my absolute favourite! so far I’ve managed to have it “on or in” most things, I did hold back on the porridge but I must admit I was tempted!
To find out more about the team at Safari Event Catering and Sauces, please visit their website