At noon on a sunny Sunday in ‘windy’ Blackbushe..next to a large airfield, customers roam past brightly painted food outlets before they scroll through the offers of Sunday’s largest outdoor market in Blackbushe Surrey.
They perusing menus for vegan barbeque, Southern food, Korean-Mexican fusion, and freshly squeezed juice and of course our German food offerings.
The smell of fried food and the tent-covered seating bring to mind a carnival, but we take a healthy approach to street food. The stall with the many flying American flags (we have not been authorised to advertise their services), for instance, serves sandwiches and wraps made with organic farm-fresh eggs, balsamic caramelized onions, and arugula. Their food wagons are compostable, and next to the order window is a list of local farms where they source their ingredients.
“We don’t mix our offerings with British food we stick to German food, sourced from Germany via our supply chain in London, because we know that we have everything to offer to spoil the Brits. And that’s the way we want it,” says Gian Schenkelberg, who runs Gourmet Express Mobile Catering with his father, Stefan Schenkelberg and his mother and pastry head chef, Regina Schenkelberg.
Gourmet Express Mobile Catering’s ‘Giant Can shaped kitchen’ usually sells out, says Stefan Schenkelberg as he hands a customer the last Bockwurst in the roll, one meaty one made with delicious cheese and lots of spices.
The Schenkelberg’s dreamed of opening a restaurant for years. They had food service experience, saved money, and spent their free time developing menu items. “Then 2010 happened,” says Stefan Schenkelberg. Difficulty getting business loans after the recession convinced them to downsize their dream to a custom-designed food stall.
Chelmsford’s (Essex) permissive land-use regulations allow vendors to open on layby “pods”—like the one that hosted Gourmet Express Mobile Catering’s Giant Can between 2011 and the 2013.
Despite their initial success, the Schenkelberg’s then consisting of the couple, Regina and Stefan Schenkelberg have found that running a mobile food trailer isn’t easy money. They both worked 70 hours a week, most of it prepping menu and soucing authentic German ingredients. But they’re grateful for the experience and they have already moved on to relocate next to the heart of the City of London. They planned on expanding to get into festivals with their crowd pulling trailer, and, if successful, they plan to open a restaurant like a growing number of he city’s most popular vendors.
Many of those vendors, especially the ones you find on the London Camden Lock Market, are first-generation immigrants who’ve found a way to make a living by sharing food traditions.
Expert Advice is currently being investigated and a suitable adviser has just been located. Mr. Schenkelberg conducts demographic researches to understand the markets but this has so far not helped to develop our sales pitch strategies in the areas of interest. “We seek out areas of high footfall and have therefore found that Central London is the company’s preferred location. As the business develops the company’s online store will ultimately develop at the same pace or better.”
Mr. Schenkelberg is seeking from the advisor recommended solutions to help overcome pitch strategy implementation difficulties over a two year period and delivered in a digital report format.”
Gourmet Express Mobile Catering’s food trailer has added a self-designed Bavarian themed marquee and is now ready to grow, and they are considering applications for medium and large events for the 2015 saison. “There’s a feeling of opportunity in and around London, and I think the rise of mobile food vendors is representative of that,” says Stefan Schenkelberg.
The Schenkelberg’s have made the most of that opportunity with their food stall, Gourmet Express Mobile Catering’s Giant Can, famous for their signature sauce (German curry) and their alternative cooking methods (healthy cooking without using oil!). Stefan Schenkelberg describes theirs as the best kind of fast food: “Fast service but not fast cooked and using quality ingredients. It’s meaty. We serve happiness.”
The Schenkelberg’s arrived from Koblenz, Germany, in 1994 with 500 Deutsch Mark. They did casual work in the United States and Stefan worked on his project to write an autobiographical account of happenings in their old homeland of Germany before returning to Europe back in 1996. Mr Schenkelberg waitressed at two different restaurants, working every day and night of the week, before running an online translation service business and investing, with generous help of family and friends, in their own customized food stall in 2010.
Now they have the Giant Can in addition to a customized Bavarian themed marquee.
Mr Schenkelberg likes the sense of community in the food stall pods, “even though competition is fierce,” but especially the cultural exchange with customers, many of whom they know by name.
With the right support the business is about to get Gourmet Express Mobile Catering’s innovative concept will succeed. The business will be able to strive and remain a healthy alternative and a serious contender for high quality foods among the street food vendors for many years to come.