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What is a Hog Roast Business?
The unmistakable smell of a hog roast is enough to make your mouth water and have you reaching for your wallet. For those looking to set up their own food business, a hog roast business could be a great option. Hog roasts remain a much-loved classic, but that doesn’t mean there’s no option for creativity. Although hog roasts are traditionally pork, you could choose different cuts of meat, flavours, sauces, toppings and even side dishes.
Hog roasts are traditionally eaten al fresco. Hog roasts usually cannot be cooked inside, although you could still serve the food inside. A hog roast business could operate at organised, public or private events, or even as a street food business. The opportunities are endless.
Traditional hog roasts can take anywhere between 4 and 12 hours to cook, depending on the size of the animal and the method of cooking. This means you will likely have to arrive at the venue or location early and cook the meat ahead of time. Alternatively, you could do the majority of the roasting at home or another secondary venue. It can then be transported in a hog roast machine and the remainder of the cooking done on-site.
A hog roast is usually cooked with indirect heat. This means you will not roast the hog directly over the fire or burner. The heat source will instead be placed to one or both sides of the hog. The hog will sit over an unlit section of the fire or burner and cook via indirect heat. This helps the meat to cook evenly on all sides and ensures the centre of the meat also cooks.
Cooking a whole pig can be extremely difficult, as different parts of the animal are thicker or fattier, meaning they cook at different rates. The best course of action is therefore to roast the hog low and slow – at a lower temperature for a longer period of time.
A hog roast requires constant supervision, to ensure the burners are all working correctly, the meat is being roasted evenly and there are no other problems when cooking the meat. Ensuring all the meat is thoroughly cooked is paramount. As well as cooking time, you will have to consider the set-up time and the time it takes to cut or shred the meat once it is cooked.
As part of your hog roast business, you may choose to serve additional food products and side dishes.
Some of your options could include:
- Side dishes, such as chips, coleslaw or potato salad.
- Toppings such as stuffing.
- Sauces, such as BBQ sauce, apple sauce, chutneys and honey sauce.
- Bread, such as ciabatta rolls.
If you have a love for meat or BBQing, a flair for business and the passion and commitment to make a hog roast business successful, this could be a great business opportunity.
Types of Customers
Hog roasts come in a variety of sizes, meaning you can cater for different numbers of people. You can cater for event sizes as small as 30 people or as large as 500 people. The types of customers you are likely to attract will depend on the types of events you target.
Some of your options include:
- Private events, such as weddings and parties.
- Organised functions.
- Business and corporate events.
- Organised events such as festivals, fairs and music events.
- Food markets, food fairs and farmers’ markets.
- Traditional markets and street festivals.
- Pop-up events.
- Outdoor events.
- Sporting events.
- As street food.
Equipment You Will Need
When setting up your hog roast business, there are several pieces of equipment you will need to acquire. The equipment required for a hog roast business can be quite expensive and may require you to make a higher initial investment. For this reason, some hog roast businesses choose to rent some of their equipment or buy it second-hand. This can help to reduce your start-up costs.
Some of the equipment you will likely need for your hog roast business is:
Hog roast machine
This will be the largest piece of equipment you will need to purchase. You can opt for a spit roast machine or a hog roast machine. Prices can vary depending on the size and specification of the machine. The prices for a smaller machine start at £700. Prices for a larger machine that can cook more meat, enabling you to serve more customers, usually start at £2,000.
You could choose an electric carving knife with prices starting at £20, or an electric carving machine, ranging from £50 to £500. Alternatively, you can opt for traditional carving knives. Investing in high-quality stainless steel carving knives is recommended to ensure you can get a good cut of meat.
Utensils and accessories
There are a number of utensils and accessories you could purchase for your hog roast business.
This could include:
- Carving forks.
- Stainless steel trays.
- A cooking timer.
- A cash register and Point of Sale system.
- A waste disposal system.
- Rubbish bins.
- A sanitising or handwashing station for customers.
You may require additional accessories, depending on what you choose to serve with your hog roast. For example, if you serve sandwiches, you will need bread knives and a cutting board.
Heavy-duty temperature probe
This will be used to check the temperature of your meat. The probe will need to be long enough to reach the thickest parts of the meat. Probes can be purchased for £20-£75, depending on the specification.
A hog roast machine is large and heavy, so you will likely need a trailer to transport the machine. If you have a car, you could opt for a trailer that attaches to the back of your car. The size of the trailer will depend on the size of your machine and other equipment. Trailer prices can vary but usually start at £1,000. However, if you choose a full-sized trailer that can be used for serving food and drinks, prices can range from £5,000 to £50,000.
As your hog roast is cooked outside, a gazebo helps to protect you from the elements. The gazebo should be large enough to cover your equipment, employees and any customers. Gazebos retail from £400.
Serving tables can be used for carving and serving the meat. You could opt for a stainless steel table which is easier to clean and less likely to experience scratches and dents. You could also choose foldable tables for easier transportation.
The law requires food businesses to have dedicated handwashing facilities for employees that are separate from the dishwashing facilities. You could choose a portable sink, or a handwashing unit would suffice. Portable sinks retail for as little as £50.
Display boards and pricing
Eye-catching display boards can help you to attract customers. It should also be easy for customers to see your menu and pricing and any additional information you supply, such as allergen information. Ensure your display boards match your business brand.
It is important to keep all food preparation and cooking areas clean. This helps to avoid cross-contamination and the breeding of bacteria. You will need to purchase different cleaning materials for different areas. You may need to invest in cloths, sponges, antibacterial surface cleaners, bleach, sanitiser, dishwashing soap and a sweeping brush and mop. You may need to invest in specialist cleaning equipment for your hog roasting machine.
Planning and preparing for your start-up costs, running costs and overhead costs is a vital part of starting a hog roast business. It can help you to plan your menu pricing and calculate your estimated profits. Below is a list of the typical costs you can expect when setting up and running a hog roast business.
As mentioned above, the cost of your equipment can vary, primarily depending on the type of hog roasting machine and trailer you choose to purchase. The cost of purchasing all your equipment new can range from £3,000 to £50,000. However, purchasing some equipment second-hand or renting some equipment could help to reduce your start-up costs.
If you want to advertise your hog roast business, we recommend you spend no more than 10% of your annual revenue on advertising costs, so if your annual revenue is £100,000, your maximum advertising costs should be £10,000. You may be required to advertise more heavily when you initially open your business as a way of attracting new customers.
Some events are much more expensive to pitch at than others, with prices ranging hugely from £20 to £2,000 per day. Well-known, organised events, such as music festivals, usually have the highest pitching fees. However, they also tend to have larger crowds, meaning you could potentially attract more business.
Street trading licence
The cost of a street trading licence can vary, depending on your local council. You can expect to pay approximately £75 to apply for your licence and may then have to pay weekly or monthly fees to trade.
Your hog roast business will have several insurance requirements, including Employer’s Liability Insurance, Public Liability Cover and Equipment Insurance. If you use a trailer or vehicle, you may also require Vehicle Insurance. Insurance prices can range from £100 to £500 depending on your insurance provider and your coverage level.
Running costs are the costs associated with running your business. You may be expected to pay these costs monthly or yearly. Your running costs could include your overhead costs such as electricity, gas and petrol. You should aim to have low running costs to help maximise your profits.
Replacing and repairing equipment
This is an ongoing cost you need to factor into your budget. As you are working with large, expensive equipment, such as the hog roasting machine and trailer, you may need to pay to maintain these. If your equipment is no longer functional, you will need to fund repairs or replacement equipment.
Stock and ingredients
Although you may also serve side dishes, toppings and relishes, your main expense when purchasing stock will be the hogs. A free-range pig usually retails for £4-£4.50 per kg.
The price of your menu will depend on the type of event you are catering for. Many hog roast businesses cater for private events. This means your menu will be priced based on the cost of the whole hog. For example, you could cater for an event for 100 people and charge £650. You would then have to cook a hog that would provide enough meat for all guests.
Alternatively, if you cater for organised events, your menu will be priced per serving, for example £5 per serving. You should price your menu based on the cost of your stock, any pitching fees you have paid and your overhead costs. You will also need to account for the potential loss of earnings from food waste.
Safely Running a Hog Roast Business
Safely running your hog roast business will be one of your key responsibilities. Unsafe practices can result in the cross-contamination of food, uncooked food being served and unclean food areas. Not implementing safety protocols could result in illness or food poisoning.
All food businesses will receive a visit from the Environmental Health Officer (EHO) within the first weeks or months of opening their business. The EHO will examine your food safety and hygiene practices and check whether you have the correct protocols in place. Failure to meet safety standards could result in the EHO providing you with an improvement notice. If they believe there is an immediate risk to customers, your business could be closed, a fine issued and in serious circumstances, you could face imprisonment.
Some safety protocols you should follow at all times in your hog roast business:
Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP)
HACCP helps you to manage food safety hazards that could arise when storing, preparing and cooking food. You can identify potential risks and implement measures to ensure these risks are reduced or removed. Keeping records of the actions you have taken in line with HACCP is recommended. For more information on HACCP and the law, consult our knowledge base.
Risk assessments should be carried out before setting up your business and at any other time you require them. An additional risk assessment is now required for risks relating to Covid-19.
Food hygiene training
During a food hygiene inspection, you will lose marks if you cannot provide evidence that employees have undertaken food hygiene training. Employees who handle, prepare and cook food require a Level 2 certificate. If you are managing employees, you will need a Level 3 certificate. You can complete Food Safety and Hygiene training on our website.
The EHO may want to see up-to-date records of cleaning schedules, risk assessments, health and safety policies, allergens and temperature checks. Keeping such records not only helps to protect your business but also ensures procedures are followed at all times.
Correct cooking temperatures
Cooking at the correct temperature can reduce or eliminate the risk of food poisoning. As you are cooking a high-risk meat product, ensuring it is cooked at the correct temperature is imperative. It is also important to make sure all parts of the hog are cooked thoroughly. Using a food thermometer can help to ensure food is thoroughly cooked. For more information on correct cooking temperatures, visit pork.org.
Cleaning and washing of equipment
Having effective cleaning procedures is essential to any food business. It is recommended that a cleaning schedule or cleaning policies are in place. As part of your cleaning requirements, ensuring the personal hygiene of you and your employees and providing handwashing stations for staff and customers can also help you to safely run your business. It is also imperative that all equipment is washed thoroughly with the correct cleaning agents.
Safely storing stock
As part of your hog roast business, you must ensure the meat is stored at the correct temperature to prevent spoilage or deterioration. It is a legal requirement in England, Wales and Northern Ireland that chilled food must be kept at 8°C or below at all times. If chilled food is out of the fridge for more than four hours, it must be disposed of. You should also make sure cooked meat is covered at all times to prevent spoilage or deterioration.
There are several legal requirements you should be aware of when starting a hog roast business. Failure to comply with legal requirements could result in delays in setting up your business. If you are found to not be following the law when your hog roast business is established, you could receive a fine or have your business temporarily or permanently closed.
Some legal requirements you should be aware of include:
Apply for a food business registration
There is no cost associated with business registration and it is quick and easy to apply for on gov.uk. You must register your hog roast business at least 28 days before you begin trading.
Register as self-employed with HMRC
Running your hog roast business as an individual or as a self-employed person requires you to register as a sole trader. You will have to think of a name for your business and keep records of all your income, profits and expenses.
Apply for a street trading licence
If you are running your business in public areas, you may need a street trading licence. Different councils within the UK have different rules regarding street trading licences. Some councils do not have restrictions on where you can trade, whereas others only allow you to trade in specific pitch areas. Contact your local council directly for more information.
Waste carrier registration
You will need to register as a low-tier waste carrier in England, Wales or Northern Ireland or a professional collector or transporter of waste in Scotland if you need to transport any waste generated from your business. Registration is free.
Obtain a Gas Safety Certificate
If you are using gas to run any of your equipment, it must be inspected every year by a gas safe engineer. If your equipment is deemed safe to use and complies with government requirements, you will be issued a Gas Safety Certificate.
Implement a Food Safety Management System (FSMS)
Food businesses in the UK must implement a Food Safety Management System. An FSMS is a systematic approach to controlling food safety hazards. It ensures that your business is following safety protocols and will influence your food hygiene rating.
Obtain a food hygiene certificate
As mentioned above, food hygiene training is a legal requirement. A food hygiene certificate is the most efficient way of evidencing your food hygiene training.
Some types of insurance are legally required, whereas others are recommended. Contact an insurer directly, or the events you plan to cater for, for more information. Required insurance could include Employer’s Liability, Public Liability, Product Liability, Indemnity Cover, Premises and Contents Insurance, and Vehicle Insurance.
The law requires all food businesses to have dedicated handwashing facilities for employees. These facilities must be separate from your pot washing facilities, to prevent contamination.
Positives of Owning a Hog Roast Business
There are some great benefits of owning a hog roast business, including:
Hog roasts are extremely popular at all kinds of events. Even though you will be cooking a large amount of meat, the popularity of hog roasts will help to reduce food waste and maximise your profits.
Easy to organise and know when revenue will be made
Prebooking and reserving spots at events and being booked at private events means it is easier to predict your revenue and profits. It also makes it easier to order stock and calculate your monthly running costs.
You don’t need to be a chef or undergo any specialist training
Cooking a hog roast requires fewer culinary skills and techniques than other food ventures. Your main cooking responsibility will be ensuring the food is thoroughly cooked, making it easier to set up a hog roast business.
Great fun and likely to encourage repeat business
You can create your own hog roast menu, travel around, and work at different events, and build relationships with customers and other food vendors. Running a hog roast business can be a fun and engaging job that still offers great profit opportunities.
Easy to link into other industries such as weddings, private parties and food festivals
Hog roasts are a great alternative option to traditional sit-down meals and buffets. This gives you a great opportunity to link into these industries and grow your business. You could choose to specialise in certain types of events or aim to be more versatile.
Although a whole hog can be expensive to purchase, you can sell your food products at a high markup price, with the cost of hiring a hog roast for an event costing £600-£1,000 on average.
Negatives of Owning a Hog Roast Business
However, there are some negative aspects of owning a hog roast business for you to be aware of.
Lots of equipment is needed and transport is necessary
Hog roast equipment is expensive, large and heavy, making it difficult to transport. As hog roasts take so long to cook, you may have to begin cooking earlier in the day, before transporting the hog and all equipment to the event before cooking is complete.
Fairly high start-up costs
The cost of the equipment and stock for a hog roast business is significantly higher compared to other mobile food businesses. This increases the risk associated with setting up your business, as a higher initial investment is needed. It can also take longer for you to start turning a profit.
High risk of food poisoning and cross-contamination
Hog roasts and other BBQed food are extremely high risk. One of the reasons for this is that it is difficult to ensure the meat is thoroughly cooked. Transporting the meat when partly cooked also increases the risk. Cross-contamination is also possible. Food poisoning can be extremely dangerous, causing illness or, in serious situations, even death.
Lots of waste and additional costs
Hog roasts can be extremely large and if you do not receive the expected foot traffic, you may encounter a lot of food waste which will eat into your profits. If the hog roast takes longer to cook, you may also miss out on prospective customers. As vegetarianism rises in popularity, hog roasts may also see a decline in their profits. Hog roasts must be eaten on the day of cooking, so any unsold meat will be waste.
As hog roast businesses require less culinary experience than other mobile food businesses, you may be competing with amateurs as well as other professionals. There may be a long waiting list for pitches, making it more difficult for you to reserve a space at your chosen events.
The business could be seasonal
Hog roast businesses tend to be much more popular in the summer. Your business could be up and down based on several factors that are out of your control such as the weather, the season and your competition. This can make it much more difficult to predict the success of your business and your potential profits.
Planning Your Hog Roast Business
Creating a well-designed and effective business plan is an important step when starting a hog roast business.
A business plan can help you to:
- Develop the procedures, steps and actions you need to follow to set up and run your hog roast business.
- Highlight any potential risks and create a plan of how to reduce these risks.
- Plan your business milestones and help you to achieve them.
- Better understand your customers and the events you will cater for.
- Determine your financial requirements, start-up costs and running costs. Calculate whether you can fund these costs yourself or whether you require any financial investment.
- Estimate potential profits.
When creating your business plan, there are several factors to consider. Finalising your idea can help you to understand your business, identify any potential problems and pitfalls and calculate your finances.
It is important to consider:
What products are you going to serve?
Will your hog roast have any flavours or sauces? Will you serve garnishes or side dishes?
What types of locations and events are you going to cater for?
Will you cater for private events, such as weddings and parties? Will you cater for organised events, such as festivals and fairs? Will you sell your hog roast as street food?
What will your price points be?
You will need to calculate your prices based on the type of events you are going to cater for. You may need different price points for private and organised events.
What will your brand identity be?
Deciding your brand identity can also help you to determine your target market and the types of events you will cater for.
What are your equipment requirements?
Will you run your business from a vehicle, a stall or a gazebo? What type of hog roast machine do you require? Consider the number of people you will cater for, as this will affect the size of the machine and trailer you will need.
Do you have any competition selling similar products to your business that is likely to target the same events as you?
Events are not likely to hire two hog roast businesses at the same time, as they usually prefer to offer their customers diverse options.
How often are you going to operate your business?
Will you operate seasonally or year-round? Will you operate on weekends or weekdays?