• The Toastie Club

Our story into street food, so far

Updated: Jan 8, 2020

Hello! We’ve been a bit slack on the old blogging lately, but this week has been pretty big, so I thought we should probably put pen to paper to mark it.

On Monday, Marketing Derby hosted the Derby Food and Drink Awards 2019 at the Roundhouse, and The Toastie Club (Jen, Rhi and I), were invited to take to the stage to tell our street-food story so far, and fill a spot on the bill that was last year reserved for local baking talent Andrew Smyth of GBBO fame.

We were understandably bricking it, but now it is over, we are relieved and proud, so thought we’d share some of the highs and the lows of our story so far on here too.

Where it all began…

Although 2019 is our second year of trading, The Toastie Club was officially formed in 2017. So let’s wind the clock back to then.

We all met each other in this year as we all used to work together at a Derby-based marketing agency. We’re all marketing professionals by trade, but it wasn’t long until we all discovered we had some shared work experience in different customer-facing roles in the food and drink industry and were all pretty passionate about it.

The idea first began at Bustler street food market one summer's evening in 2017 and after a few too many beers, we decided it’d be a great idea to start a food business. Skip to the next morning and feeling a little soberer- we discussed a food trailer, and from there the beginnings of an idea was born.

We came up with lots of different ideas (one being scones in a granny caravan - the less said about that the better!) and we didn’t necessarily think we’d end up doing street food. The idea of a cafe was banded around but we happened upon street food as we thought it was a less risky starting point for three novices to business.

Back in May this year, we catered at our very first Bustler. It’s been nice to go full circle and in some ways it was our ‘we’ve made it moment’, as this is where the idea was first born. We’ve been back there several times this year since to cater different events.

To date we have catered a total of 50 events ranging from corporate events like weddings and birthday parties, to pop-ups at pubs and sporting events, and the time has just seemed to fly! What is more, this is all around our normal 9-5 jobs, so that works out at an event every other week for the last two years. We’ve been working our little socks off!

Why Derby for our business?

Well two of us are Derby born and bred, and Jen - although being apparently from ‘God’s country’ - has spent the last 8 years here and made it her home.

The foodie scene in Derbs is thriving; craft beer being brought to the city with the annual Beer Con, street food and craft and artisan markets, several different types of cuisine to suit every palate… it just seemed like a good time to get stuck in. Plus we’re really well-positioned, being located in the Midlands, the easy access to surrounding areas is ideal when you get invited to cater weddings up and down the country.

We love the Derby food scene. We’ve got pals in it and have made even more since we started on this adventure. It’s such an encouraging and enterprising community that we’re proud to be a part of. People are always happy to share their knowledge and are often getting roped into giving us a hand with something and for that, we are very grateful. We always look to offer the same to anyone else.

Some of our favourite go tos, and those that deserve a special shout-out for helping us in our journey so far, include:

  1. Bustler

  2. Whitepeak Distillery

  3. Tollgate Brewery

  4. Portobello Deli

  5. Utter Barstewards

What challenges have we faced?

Well, where do we start!? Right from the word go we were faced with challenges.

The first one being the fact we wanted to save a few bob and renovate a shell of a pony trailer into a fully-fledged catering vehicle. And let me tell you, building work is not my forte!

That was just the start of trailer challenges. The trailer, being central to us being able to run our business (along with the toasties of course!), is probably the biggest recurring challenge.

Breakdowns - we wanted to burn the thing the night the wheels fell off! Manual labour - shifting the ruddy thing. The problems of finding trailer storage with easy access - this is still a problem now!

How about the food challenges. One example that springs to mind is ordering the wrong bread for our launch event and not realising until we were buttering our 100th slice and noticing it looked a slightly different colour, and seemed a little too small… D’oh!

Equipment challenges. Burns from the grill. Electrics not working. Gas canisters not working. All of this during a busy event is less than ideal.

Event challenges. From finding our feet back in the day when it was all completely new, saying yes to all the events that asked us to attend and trying lots of different types of events to find what works for us (and what definitely doesn't!). Also, we now know to look out for event organisers selling you the dream and inflating foot-fall numbers and have learned to work it out ourselves - learning the power of saying ‘no’ sometimes also feels so good.

Timing challenges. Oh the challenge to fit everything in! The planning, the comms, the marketing, the shopping, the prepping - all around our normal 9-5s.

Oh, and the weather. The rain, and even the heat. Let me tell you, standing over a grill all day in the baking heat is sometimes a lot to handle! And finally, to tell you the truth, sometimes our biggest challenge is actually each other… ;)

And the highs?

One high has got to be getting picked up by the local press in Derby, Nottingham and Leicestershire for our Frazzles - the bacon flavoured crisps - toastie. We were sandwiching all sorts of weird and wonderful things inside our sourdough, trying new flavours out for size. The thinking behind frazzles was that it was a take on a bacon sarny - with a hint of nostalgia, and even suitable for vegetarians! This was just an idea we were playing with, never did we intend to necessarily add it to our menu or sell it - however we posted a photo of it on Instagram and it got picked up, articles published and next thing we knew we had people asking for it at our public events! We have since added The Frazzled to our menu, and it was actually one of our most popular toasties that sold out at Bustler last weekend.

In a similar vein, The Toastie Club also got picked up and featured in national foodie mag, Olive magazine. Again, we weren’t aware of this either until a friend of my mum’s friends was flicking through it one day and spotted us in there!

Some of the requests we get in are just fantastic too! We’ve been asked to be on an episode of TOWIE which we thought was hilarious (we were sadly unavailable), and even to cater the wedding of a certain insta-famous baker who has over 650k followers!

Talking of weddings, one special highlight has to be catering the wedding of one of our fellow toasties; Rhianna, to her husband Ben. She must have loved it too, getting all her wedding catering at cost! Being trusted to be a part of someone’s special day is such a lovely feeling, and something we don’t take for granted.

Sometimes the simplest things can give the most amounts of pleasure. For example not looking up from the grill at a busy event for 4-hours straight to realise you’ve sold out and everyone is packing up and going home. Also, seeing people’s faces when we rock up at foodie events - three girls in a van towing a horsebox, and then proceeding to hop out and manoeuvre it into place - it never fails to disappoint!

Finally, nights like Monday, facing our fears of public speaking and getting our bums on that stage at the Derby Food and Drink Awards. We, of course, couldn't have done that without the stiff drink we each consumed beforehand! Nothing like a little bit of dutch courage eh?

What’s next for The Toastie Club?

Well, for now, we’re just enjoying the journey, the events we are going to and the people we meet along the way. If you'd told us two years ago that we'd be standing on the stage at the Derby Food and Drink Awards telling our story, we wouldn't have believed you so who knows where the next two years will take us!

Ash x


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