It’s all Gravy: Part 1 - Thou Shalt Heed the Advice of Others Dear Trader

Well, well, well.

It’s safe to say we’ve had an interesting few months since our launch in April. Burnt fingers, troublesome equipment and 4am gravy sessions have all featured on the regs. We’ve scratched our heads more times than medically recommended and at times have felt like dung beetles pushing up a big ole’ chunk uphill, only to have it go tumbling back down whilst we wave our six legs in the air in frustration... Or summat like that.


But thankfully, that all pales in comparison to the good times; being out in the sunshine doing our thang; colourful customers; and selling out in time to go home, pop the feet up on Grandma’s pouffe and have a cup of Yorkshire Tea.


I’m sure you’re all dying to hear of our tales of poutine woe and wonderment (don’t all shout at once). We’ll get to those in good time, but for now, we thought it’d be just plain nice to pass on the lessons we’ve learnt over this year for any new traders out there about to take the plunge.


The street food industry is a big learning curve, which at times feel more like a blunt-ass right angle, so we thought we’d share the knowledge and chisel out what we’re calling (as of now) our ‘Street Food Commandments’ - rules to stick by if we had to do it over (*shudders*).


We run a much tighter ship nowadays. Being slapped on the kisser by your own mistakes will do that to you, but this is almost more of an exercise for us here at The Gravy Train as it is for you, dear reader. After all, what healthier time for reflection is there than a post-Christmas, how-much-did-I-drink-and-where-did-all-the-cheese-straws-go-existential crisis? None. So we’ll be reciting these Commandments under our breath like maniacs as we head into 2017. You may not want to go that far, but don’t say we didn’t warn ya’s! Pens at the ready?


Commandment Number One:

Thou shalt schedule time for each task…..and then double it. Seriously.


If we were to compare running a street food business to a game of Monopoly (which I’m about to), we were barely past Old Kent Road when the harsh consequences of not scheduling ourselves enough time surfaced like an exasperated blue whale with a thousand yard stare.


The launch party. Oh what a twee little encounter it. Breeze in, breeze out, serve some food in Sheffield City centre, get a couple followers on social media. Nothing too strenuous. OK, so what needs doing? We’d got the menu down - six dishes with different toppings. We need to put the finishing touches to the stall. Piece of cake. Let’s get started on Thursday and we can go to town and get everything else squared away. We got this shit.


“But oh, what’s this? That’s weird, I could have sworn I bought peppers. It’s alright, I’ll nip back down there. What? We’re an hour behind schedule. No bother, we’ll work faster. I need to go to the gas shop to buy some crimping clips. Oh they’re out. I’ll go to the one across town. Great, they have them. Jeez, there’s so much traffic on the road.


Two hours behind. Arse, we need more chalkboard paint, should’ve got two tins. There’s a Staples in town. I’ll go now or we’ll fall behind on the prep. This store is massive. Where are all the staff? I could’ve walked out with whatever I wanted if I weren’t so honest. Seriously, where the hell are they? Ten minutes and I’ve not seen a soul, am I this honest?


Three hours behind. This TRAFFIC man. Seriously!? Just GO! Why am I gripping the steering wheel so tightly? There’s never anywhere to bloody park on this bloody road. What the hell is the point in even paying for a permit if there’s never any-oh she’s moving, great. How are we doing mate? Had to go to the bank to pick up change and the queue was insane, so haven’t been able to do too much.


We’re four hours behind, *takes deep breath*. Focus. We need to get those boards painted up so that they dry in time. I’ll do that now, you crack on with the BBQ Chicken, quickly.


Five hours behind. Or is that six? I can’t tell, my watch is covered in gravy. It’s OK, honest. I don’t like this watch that much anyway. We’ve got to get this done, pack the van and get down there to set up in time. It’s getting away from us. This stall takes forever to set up. Why won’t the fryer light up? There are so many people waiting! Why didn’t we start on Tuesday?!”


This is the stuff that will keep you up at night, which is ironic considering you’ll no doubt be strapped for beauty sleep. It’s the little, niggling tasks that add up to make one mammoth undertaking. Selling food and packing down is easy. Executing everything to a tee and firing up your hob in time to serve those first few portion-seekers is an art. Buying cable ties/blackboard paint/coriander/creme fraiche takes time people - EVERYTHING IS INTEGRAL!  


Poor punctuality will reflect badly on you in the eyes of the organisers. Make sure you’ve done as much as you can to ensure you’re not that guy/girl who turns up half an hour before the event opens with bread rolls tumbling out of your van looking like you haven’t slept in a month.


How do you avoid being ‘that guy/girl’? Live by the First Commandment - Thou shalt schedule time for each task…..and then double it. Seasoned pros will know how much time it takes for them to prep and will be well aware of the little jobs that need doing before they get down to their spot. That’s why they’re pros. Until you reach that Rainman-like stage, schedule the amount of time you think you’ll need and double it. It’ll save your bacon more often than not and will show you to be on top of your shit before you are. Trust us.


Whatsmore, if you get everything done, there’s always time to have a mojito before you serve your first customer. All we’re saying is, since we started living by this rule, our mojito count ain’t all that extensive. We’ll leave that with you.



Check back on the regular for more Street Food Commandments/ new trader tips or drop us a line on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, or via email (hello if you’re looking for advice, we love a chat we do. Most of all, good luck with your new venture.


Happy New Year!


The Gravy Train Poutine