The Street traders license! For some people who operate Sandwich Vans or any sort of food to go truck you may not know what I’m on about here. Well for about 20 years Sandwich Express traded in Cheshire West & Chester council with no license – don’t get me wrong we were governed by the local environmental health so the council knew exactly what our business was about. This leads me to believe that the street traders license was something quite new for our local authority – yes the pound of flesh, their piece of the pie was being demanded due to some court ruling in some far off land that judged that a sandwich van was to be classed as street trading. Personally I think they just saw other local authorities in the close vicinity doing it and like good civil servants proceeded to make some more money for the local war chest.
So why do Sandwich Vans need a license? You may think, as I did, that you are what’s known as a ‘Roundsman’ (A milkman is a roundsman), everyday you go to predetermined calls on private car parks, if you’re organised you’ll have all this documented so you can prove you do the same ‘ROUND’ each day, so naturally you are a ‘Roundsman’ – WRONG!!! When you park up outside any of your calls can a member of the public walking down the street walk up to your van and purchase their lunch on the way to work? “Yes of course, I can’t afford to turn down a sale” – POW!!!! You just became a street trader. No matter how you try to tell the local licensing officer that you don’t sell to the general public he/she won’t believe you – and let’s be honest if the bin wagon stops and five hungry blokes get out you’re going to serve them, yes that’s another trick I’ve heard the council using, asking their employees to trap you into serving them on public property.
I suppose there are a few of you that only serve on private gated land and for this you do not need a license. For example one of our vehicles trade in an area were the street trading licensing is not chargeable (yes they exist), but for one call it crosses the border into a chargeable council area – the call however is a big hotel situated in its own grounds, we park by the staff quarters where no member of the public is allowed – for this we did not need to pay. Round planning is very important, if you trade within close proximity to council borders you could cross into two or three separate authorities, and yes you need a license for each one. At Sandwich Express before we start a new round we check the map thoroughly and contact the local authority well in advance of starting said round.
The cheapest license we have encountered was £366 per year plus any additional vans on £188, this is quite rare as all other authorities we deal with don’t offer any discounts for additional vehicles – Well done Halton Borough Council. The most expensive we’ve encountered is £630 and I’ve been told there are councils who charge more.
Do I think Licensing is a good thing? Yes I do, our type of business does have an element of people doing the job out of non regulated premises, which lets be honest can be dangerous, if anything goes wrong in the supply chain who are you going to blame for that endless night in the bathroom or maybe worse? As our company grows we always consult with the relevant authority before starting a round and you can get a good idea of what the competition is like by asking how many licenses are currently out in the area, its funny how many times you’re told that there are no other sandwich vans in the area – really? how come I know of 3 that are blatantly advertising on Facebook. Yes there are so many unlicensed vans out there, but is it worth it? for the sake of a few quid a week you don’t have to worry about the licensing officer that will come to your vehicle while you have a big queue and shut you down – how embarrassing and unprofessional.
Watch out for some of the rules that accompany your license, most are not really written for our sort of business, they’re aimed more at the static type of trailer you see moored at the side of roads, like areas where you can’t park to trade or days that may coincide with a big public event. One of the rules you need to be aware of is the 250 metre rule, this says that you can not trade within 250 metres of another business selling the same type of goods – so how many of your calls does that eliminate? You see how this has not really been thought out by the authorities, say you’ve been delivering to a site for 20 years and 200 metres away someone opens up a café, this will mean the council will say you now can’t trade there and believe me the café owner will not let this go (I know, we’ve had one), even if your customers want you there you can not open your door and trade in the normal fashion. See what I said there – the normal fashion, let me share with you the way you can legally overcome this problem. If your customers are happy with your products and want to continue buying them (because the café is a greasy spoon and the owner spends half the day standing outside smoking – told ya we’d had one), all that you need to do is make sure your customers stay in their building, they will know what they want so tell them you’ll bring it in for them, then conduct the monitory exchange on their PRIVATE premises – the licensing officer has no jurisdiction on private property, just make sure no one comes out to your van because just browsing is classed as street trading – there you go 250 metre rule sorted. The only exception is that if the landlord of the café owns the whole site they can ask you not to come on the site, this has nothing to do with your license and is a bugger, but we found away around even that, if you want to know how you’ll have to ask me in the comments below.
My advice – pay the license, work with your local authority to regulate unlicensed vans, if you have to pay why should your competition get away with it? It has to be a level playing field, competition is good so long as everyone is playing by the rules. Licensing departments are now working with the environmental health officers so there is going to be no hiding.
Questions? Please like and share.