Ten top tips to survive and thrive as
a new takeaway business in 2021

Author: Oliver Lloyd - Director 

9-12 min read

12th January 2021


Over the last five years, the month of January has been viewed as the prime time to start-up a new business.

Why? Quite often, it boils down to the fact that many people utilise the downtime over Christmas to evaluate and assess where they are at in their lives and careers. It provides the opportunity to dedicate thinking time to what’s next, that new business idea that they’d love to launch, and ultimately how good it would be to be their own boss.

The catering industry is no different, of course. 

And despite the effects of the ongoing pandemic, that’s unlikely to change - especially given the success of the takeaway market, which saw a significant upgrade in quality during 2020. 

Data last year showed that Brits were 10% more likely to set up a new venture in January than at any other time in the year, and given that statistics also show that restaurant takeaway and food delivery is the UK’s fastest-growing market - worth approximately £8.5 billion pounds to the economy - it is little wonder why so many think about launching their own service.

Naturally, as exciting as going it alone is and sounds, though, it can come with its own trials and anxieties to overcome in order to be successful. 

But, how do you get started and what licenses do you need to be thinking about? Similarly, how do you stand out from the crowd of others trying to do exactly the same thing? And, how do you grow in the future?

This handy guide will outline everything a new catering business start-up owner needs to be thinking about today, tomorrow, and in the future in order to get their start-up off the ground and thrive in an industry that, all being well, is set for a big rebound in 2021.


  • Attaining the correct licenses and keeping your paperwork up to date
  • Keep your overheads at the forefront of your mind
  • Identify your niche
  • What type of packaging is the best for me?
  • Always keep in mind the power of perception
  • Why your profits are in your portions
  • How to use social media effectively
  • When should I consider branding?
  • Considering a takeaway or delivery service
  • Steps to take to grow your new start-up business

Attaining the correct licenses and keeping your paperwork up to date

The first step would be to take a look at what catering licenses you need and to get the legal bit sorted early doors. 

Most importantly, you need to ensure that you have got your hygiene ratings and food certifications. There are a few places that you can go to acquire them and you will be helped through the process of sorting that out if it’s something you’re not familiar with. 

A good place to begin would be to visit the Food Standards Agency’s training page, where you will be able to complete free online training courses that will help you and your new business comply with the UK’s food hygiene and food standards. These online training sessions include courses on allergen, labelling, traceability, and vacuum-packing.

These certificates can also be achieved via the High Speed Training website, which provides three different levels of food hygiene training depending on what is most suitable for your business. CPD Online College’s range of courses are also a great option, too.

People that are serving food can’t sell it without the proper certification or the proper hygiene inspections. The UK has the best methods in the world on that front. It might be a basic requirement, but it, without a doubt, is the most important.


Identify your niche - what sets you apart

What is going to make you different from the competitor stall that is close to you? 

For example, if you’re going to sell brownies, what makes yours better - or at least different - when compared to everyone else? 

After all, there are a lot of stalls and shops that sell brownies now. Do you play around with different flavours, styles, or shapes? If so, that’s what you’re going to play on heavily to get you in front of your customers and to avoid confusion, keep your food range small and limited. 

As soon as you begin adding multiple lines, your food and ingredients outlay is going to increase and you will find that you need a much higher turnover of food to keep fresh and moving. Don’t go too big too quickly.


What type of packaging is the best for me?

Plan ahead and be prepared. 

You never know what is going to happen with deliveries and you’ve only got to see how other sectors were impacted by the shipping delays that the UK faced towards the end of 2020

When it comes to packaging, before purchasing anything you need to decide what fits and is suitable for your product. Below is a handy four-point checklist of things to consider when it comes to finding the right packaging:

  • It has to keep the food safe and secure
  • It has to be hygienic
  • If you’re selling hot food, it needs to retain heat
  • Is the product being taken away or being eaten there and then - does it need a lid?

In short, functionality is key. For any start-up, you want to be in the simple position of getting food to your customer in a good state so that it can be eaten.


Always keep in mind the power of perception

The next part to think about is added value. 

Take a cup of coffee for example. You could sell the best coffee beans and you could be the best barista in the world, but if you sell your cup of coffee in a white polystyrene cup, you’re instantly limited as to what you can charge for that coffee. 

Why? Because people’s perception of that packaging is that it’s cheap. At best, you can charge a maximum of £1.50 for a cup of coffee in a basic polystyrene cup to retain your customer satisfaction. 

However, if you pour that same coffee into a double-walled paper cup that is 100% recyclable and is branded, that comes with an air of quality about it and you’re able to sell that cup of coffee for more. 

The difference between both of those packages is pence, but what it does for perception value could not be further apart. 


Why your profits are in your portions

Start-ups can be generous when it comes to getting food out to a customer and impress, but it is important to decide how much you’re selling your product for, to know the costings of your portion, and to ensure you don’t deviate away from it. 

Know the cost of your packaging and know the cost of your ingredients. You’ve got to be profitable from an early stage. Again, perception is an important part of that. When it comes to packaging, a portion can look smaller or bigger depending on what it is put into. 

The salad boxes you see in supermarkets are a great example of that. You can go to a supermarket and the grab and go salad boxes you can buy typically come in two shapes - a rectangular style or packaging that is more opened out and wider. 

There is actually less in the latter compared to the former, though! But they sell for the same price as the rectangular version and sell far better. Why? Because there is a wider surface area. You see more of the salad from the bottom, giving off the perception that there is more in it when that is not the case at all. 

It’s all perception of value and the most successful businesses limit their portion control, but use packaging effectively to add value. 

How to use social media effectively

In this digital-savvy world we are living in, social media is going to be one of your greatest allies.

Once you have your pages set up, start by asking your friends and family to share everything to increase your digital presence and range early on. 

That would appear an obvious tactic, but when it comes to organic growth early on, it’s invaluable. 

Also, check social media and follow pages relating to your local town and community. Facebook is a great place to start for this. 

Now more than ever before, people like to hear about local people starting something new. There’s a big emphasis on supporting local and independent right now - regardless of what that might be. 

In the first instance, that’s an easier sell than trying to talk to someone in an entirely different region 100 miles away about your new business. Start by tapping into the people around you and work outwards from there.

When should I consider branding?

When it comes to start-ups, plastering branding on products is not something we recommend at the very start of your venture. 

When it comes to packaging, you’ve got to buy your stock in line with minimal order quantities. As an example, for cups, you typically have to purchase 50,000 cups before you have even sold one cup. 

Particularly at the beginning, we’d recommend just sticking to stock lines and building up your business. Only when you’re meeting your demand for minimal orders, the cost of including your branding becomes insignificant. 

It’s all about volumes in the catering industry. If you really want to get your brand exposed, the most cost-effective option to think about is ink stamps, which can be put on boxes, carrier bags, and cups. Websites, like Stampit, are great places to start for this, offering not only ink, but rubber stamping and also embossers.

Another option is a printed label. For a start-up, both of those are considered your best bet until you’re consistently hitting your volume targets.

Keep your overheads at the forefront of your mind and plan for a future beyond COVID-19

A significant part of your overheads lies in your premises and your business rates - the two biggies that are going to be ramping up your business costs from day one. 

Consider what facilities you have access to already. For example, can you cut a lot of expenditure straight away and run your business from home? Home kitchens can be registered with businesses and produce and sell food legally. On top of that, you don’t require industrial equipment to be able to do so and your everyday home appliances will suffice.

However, COVID-19 is not going to be around forever so it’s important to start planning for the future.

The natural next step is to look at street food vendors, which are typically a good starting point. It only involves a pop-up stand, table, a kitchen layout plugged into a generator, and from there you’re good to go. It’s low cost - even more so than buying a trailer or a van, which can cost in excess of £30,000 just for something basic. 

A market stall style set-up with a gazebo is cost-effective, low risk, transferable, and can be branded how you set fit. A decent size mobile gazebo can be purchased online for as little as £150 and naturally that price will scale up depending on the size of the tent, the accessories, and the branding. 

For a start-up, our advice would be to look at something durable, brand new, and offers fireproofing. You should expect these to cost approximately £500 - £650. More information about the benefits of this type of stall can be found on the Nationwide Caterers Association

The only thing to consider with a gazebo is that they can be quickly outgrown if your new business venture takes off and you will find yourself looking for something bigger. 

In the beginning, though, you need to be thinking about what you can achieve with the lowest amount of spend just to get started. 

One final top tip… consider a takeaway or delivery service

Think more about local delivery to homes right from setting up. 

People want to connect. People haven’t been able to socialise because of this pandemic and sending someone a gift like that has become a key part of re-affirming that connection and lets someone know you’re thinking about them. 

Sweets and cakes have proven to be immensely popular for that very reason, even prior to COVID-19. Alternatively, healthy meals are only growing in popularity. 

A lot of customers are fed up with eating the normal, fast-food, takeaway option and we’re seeing far more than people are craving quality, healthy, and nutritious food. 

Have any further questions?

We hope you found this little guide helpful. 

However, if you feel there’s something we haven’t covered and that we can help you with, we’re inviting you to get in touch with us!

If you have a different enquiry about starting up your new catering or takeaway business, please send us an email at hello@catering24.co.uk and we will be happy to help.

Image credit: Shutterstock

A few of our most popular products: