12 things you learn running a street food restaurant
Street Food Chef Food

Five years after starting Street Food Chef right here in Sheffield, Abi Golland, tells us what she’s learnt along the way.

My partner Richard and I started The Street Food Chef in April 2010. We set out to build a food business together.

We wanted to offer our customers good quality, freshly made and delicious Mexican food.

Food that makes you feel good.

So, what have I learnt whilst starting and building a food business?

1. That you have to take action

I know Nike got there first, but just do it is the best piece of advice I could give anyone who is thinking of starting a business. Buy something and sell it, book onto a farmer’s market, write a poem – take action and then learn from what happened. Our first outing was a sell out, but we didn’t make a penny – our pricing was all wrong, and we were really slow. BUT, customers came back for our burritos! We listened to them and then did it again, with some tweaks. (We are still tweaking now.)

2. Moving equipment is hard!

I’ve had to do this many times, now. It involves strapping the equipment into the van… and then driving really carefully.

3. How to roll a burrito

Seriously though, the practical stuff is really important. Doing it, so you know what your team need in order to be able to do their job efficiently and enjoyably.

4. When to delegate (and when not to)

Right at the beginning we had to apply for the right kind of planning consent on our unit on Pinstone Street. This required drawings and a lot of technical knowledge. We tried to do it ourselves – to save money. The application went back and forth, and we got nowhere.  We appointed an architect, six weeks later it was all done. We didn’t need to know how to do all that technical stuff, just to understand the process, but use someone else’s skill.

5. How to cook with chillis

Over the years, we’ve tried to get this just right. No matter what, some customers will always want to go hotter!

6. That the only person stopping you is you

I’ve stopped questioning whether I can do it or not. When we were waiting for our lease on Pinstone Street, we heard the leader of the council on the radio talking about how the council were working to get new businesses into the units on Pinstone Street. We had been waiting months to get going, I immediately emailed him explaining my frustration – we received a response straight away (on a Friday night), and things started to move along. I realised then that no-one was going to do it for me!

7. You have to listen to your instincts

As an employee, I had become used to working within someone else’s framework. Every time I do not listen to my instincts, I am reminded that this is a mistake.

8. There’s a right way to taste food

You make guacamole by mixing avocado and pico de gallo, then add the coriander, the lime juice and the salt one by one. Taste the mixture between each ingredient, you will be amazed at how the avocado changes.

9. You should never miss the important moments!

You have to pay attention and celebrate the good stuff. (You should also notice – fully – the bad stuff.)

10. That you have to look after your staff

Our team are looking after our business – every time they send a burrito over the pass or greet a customer. If it works for them it works for me, and vice versa.  No-one can do it on their own.

11. That, no matter what, you have to keep going

When you’re trading outside, it’s a question of WHEN something goes wrong, not IF something goes wrong.

12. That Sheffield is an amazing place to start a business

I love doing all this in Sheffield!  A city with a history of entrepreneurial-ism, filled with people who will tell you the truth and who are keen to support anyone ‘having a go’.

Visit the Street Food Chef website at streetfoodchef.co.uk – you can also find them on Twitter and Facebook.

Main image: Street Food Chef by Brendon Tyree