Must Know Food Guidelines for Aussie Market Stalls

Australians love food & produce gift and thrift stall markets!

Who hasn't been to the Queen Victoria Market, Balmain, Paddington and many others around the country on any given day? And who has not bought their share souvenirs, bags, textiles, trinkets and others from the many stalls that are scattered throughout these bargain places?

For many of us in Australia, markets are a quintessential part of life and will be around for many more generations to come.

Now that said, besides the evident dry goods, another attraction found in markets that draw the locals and tourists alike to them en masse is FOOD.

From the typical foodie to experimenting enthusiasts to the picky connoisseurs, the markets of Australia hold sway to anyone who has a palate longing to be satisfied.

And this is a fact that entrepreneurs can take advantage of, naturally...

Delicious Foods. Photos by cattalin and DominikSchraudolf

The Business of FOOD, in Australia

According to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF), the food industry is an integral part of our economy, accounting for around 20 percent of manufacturing sales and service income (years 2009-10) and providing jobs for more than 226,750 Australians.

And although most of the produce is grown from farms and the like areas across the country, one place to where food eventually ends up - either fresh or processed into different types of delicacies and dishes - is, well, you guessed it, the local Aussie markets.

Getting into the Business: Starting a FOOD Market Stall

As food is such a highlight in marketplaces, you, as the ever-adventurous entrepreneur looking for a possible venture might decide (if you're not already in one) to get a hand into selling food.

But what exactly do you need to know before getting into this type of business, especially in a vibrant setting, with a lot of potential clients and an equal amount of competition, like the marketplace?

1. The Legislations or Laws of the Land

As we've said before, every state has its own checklist of regulations that need to be satisfied before you can operate a food stall.

The City of Vincent, WA for example, have legislations like the City of Vincent Health Local Law 2004, Trading in Public Places Local Law 2008 and Council Policy 3.8.10 Food Act 2008 that serves, along with other legislations, as the basis for their guidelines on food stalls.

You may want to contact your local council about the checklist of permits needed as well as other requirements.

2. Structural Guidelines and Requirements

The size and area of your outdoor stall may also be required consideration.

Some markets may impose a certain restriction as to how large or small your stalls should be, or could already come inclusive of fees and pre-installed on-site before you operate (as some markets not only here but overseas practice this to have their location uninformed) and all you do is pick your spot.

Some may allow for you to just park a food truck on the space, open the back of your van, or require additional fees besides the rent in order to have the stall extended. There may also be a need for facilities like that for washing, cooking, equipment storage or waste disposal. Permanent or temporary, covered or uncovered - these can also be part of the structural guidelines of the market.

3. Food Sanitation, Safety and Hygiene

Food Market Stalls. Photos by Diliff and spaztacular 

Since food handling is "sticky business", make certain that you know the following as they are common requirements in every state:

a. Temperature control - Perishable foods and potentially hazardous goods stored at the right level of heat or cold?

b. Storage - Do you separate raw and cooked, place them in covered containers, keep them off the ground?

c. Preparation - How long does it take to prepare food; are they prepared inside the stall or will be transported from another location; will you erect a barrier to cover the area of preparation to keep insects out; are the surfaces used for cooking approved and sanitised?

d. Serving - Will you be able to handle the money and food separately; do you have tongs, spoons, and spatulas and will you use gloves; do you have ready utensils, keep your sauces and condiments in the proper clean containers, have signs put up like "No double dipping", "For Cooking Only", "For Hand Washing Only"?

e. Personal hygiene - Are you dressed properly, use aprons, hairnets, physically clean; no one smokes in the stall; no illnesses or sores that may be contagious; does your staff have an area for washing and is it labelled properly; and is there liquid soap, paper towels, tissues or hand towels supplied for staff use

f. General cleaning - Are your gazebo stall's walls, floors, ceilings and overall area clean; how about the utensils and equipment; do you have hot water and sanitizers for emergency cleaning; do you separate the water used for utensils, hand washing and cooking; are there cleaning basins?

g. Waste management - Do you dispose of solid waste properly, the water wastes, waste oils?

All these are needed to ensure that no contamination happens as food can sometimes carry threats to the well-being of you and your consumers.

Being clean and staying clean is a key. So keep everything in order. Have all your equipment, utensils and staff in check as consumers are sure to flock to cleaner and safer food handlers.

However, if you are having  problems or have any other concerns regarding starting that stall, some markets (and the local agencies in charge themselves) always have helpful agents ready to assist you.

Hot Food. Photos by Pierre-Yves Cavellat and Donald Judge

Tips to Getting You on Your Way

1. Making the decision and choosing the appropriate type of food market stall

Long term or for certain festivals or annual opportunities only? At the start of your market stall, the first decision you should make is regarding the "lifespan" of your business.

How long do you intend to run your stall, would that be for long-term or just for a short while? Markets can actually be classified under the long-term, provided they are the sort that has regular schedules and is constantly open to the public. Short-term markets are those that appear annually, bi-monthly or quarterly; those that are organised only during festivals, events and celebrations locally and nation-wide.

By making certain as to how long a time you intend to do this type of business, you can plan ahead regarding other aspects like cost and staff, and probable loss.

2. Type of food to sell. Manufacturing or processing of food

Delicious Food Presentation. Photos by reca2g and Cory Doctorow

Unless you already know what kind of food you'd want to sell, or if you've already started selling, deciding on what food to bring to the market is the next step.

Do you have a family recipe that you know people will also love? A specialty, or a baked goodie that's been a hit with your friends and you know would sell out as easily on the market scene? Or perhaps you have a surplus of fresh home-grown vegetables and fruits, eggs, milk and other organic ingredients?

Those can also be sold in market stalls as the foods in markets don't always have to be processed for it to be profitable.

You may also want to consider how you'd like to sell the items - uncooked, pre-packaged, processed and transported from a different site or cooked on the site itself.

Now a little piece to remember: if you'll be cooking alfresco, putting up tables to offer steamy dishes, hot sandwiches, soups and the like are always a good idea. However, always consider the space and stall limitations. If there is none so much to be used, it's okay to just put your freshly-cooked meals some nice takeaway packaging. Put them in cups, disposable plates, bowls or wrap in foil or clear plastic. Just make sure they're clean and sanitised not only for your business' sake but also for your consumers.

3. Market location

Whether private or council owned, there is always a need to register to appropriate offices to get a spot, to pay fees (like rent, if any) that need to be settled beforehand, and some manner of form-filing and documentations.

Check as well whether your target market allows for food stalls as some may limit the number, may focus on a specific type of food, group the like products in one area, or may avoid duplicate stalls and pitches entirely (say, for example, the organiser allows a lesser number of hot food or cold food offerings because the location already has sellers of those types).

TIP: To avoid the hassle, it is recommended that you do your research, application and registration on an earlier date, preferably 28 days to a month or two in advance before the market starts if annually or in the monthly timeframe, or 3-5 days if on a weekly basis. This is to allow space for clarification of documents or in the case of mishaps.

Also to take a load off your mind, especially if everything has already been settled, thus allowing you to focus on your selling strategy instead before the fair happens.

4. Secure your certifications

Now depending on the state, as each has its own separate list, make sure to secure all certifications and requirements like those from the FSA (Food Standards Agency) for food safety, from the EHO (Environmental Health Officer) applicable for some premises and employers' licenses in the case you'd like to employ some help in operations. A helpful consultant may need to brief you on these and on certain standards you'll need to adhere to among other things. (See the prepared list per state below for further details.)

5. Staff, rent and cost, budget and capital

Some merchants say that the bottom line of any business is always the one drawn by financing. To avoid spending more than you'll eventually be earning in your market stall, remember to always plan, allocate and keep track of your expenses.

A good budget should consist of all considerable costs like those paid for rent, employees and transportation, as well as a track of all sources like where your capital came from, the origin of ingredients, were they bought or free because they're home-grown. It should also have your profits listed.

TIP: Your budget doesn't have to be a completely detailed accounting of everything, but it does have to be accurate so you see how far you've come. Never forget to take tabs of where your cash went, and to list and record all expenses and profits by the end of the day, the market week or month.

6. Start time of operations and traffic

Early Market Stall Opening. Photos by Your Mildura and Cliff

Starting a market stall means scheduling so that you have enough time as apparently the day will start early for you, being a stall owner, for obtaining and processing the food especially if you sell them cooked.

It's also important to learn the opening hours of the market where you'll have your pitch as you can simply time your stall's own trading hours with it.

Alternatively, you might choose to follow your personal operating hours, but only if you have already gauged the traffic. In that case, you'll need to observe and learn especially when you have the most consumers, or when the people and tourists in the area come out to visit the markets.

7. Possible liabilities: Wrong location, Food safety, Sanitation concerns, Weather

With any venture, there may be a few certain liabilities. So before you decide, consider everything carefully.

Pitching your stall in the wrong location, for example, can mean less or no business while getting caught under the weather without the proper outdoor shade over your wares may mean getting your goods destroyed. One wrong move may lead to losing precious time as well as resources, and even if you already have your stall placed, you still need to keep a watchful eye, especially since you're into food handling.

Avoid neglecting food safety and sanitation, always practice good hygiene...otherwise, your stall may be deemed unfit for operation in the market premises.

Some Helpful Links:


Food Safety Guidelines for Charities & Community Organisations

Guidelines for Food Handling at Temporary Events


Temporary Food Stall: Licence, Structure and Operation Guide


Temporary Food Premises: Information for Operators


Guidelines for Temporary Food Stalls


How to Run a Healthy Business

Event Guidelines for Temporary Events: Food


Market Food Stalls Information Package

Related links: "Food" DAFF, read article here; "How to Start a Street Food Outlet" Smarta, read more here; "Food Safety" Department of Health, Victoria, Australia, read more here; "Market Stalls" Mackay Regional Council, read more here; "Food Business Information Kit: Market Stall" Northern Territory Government, read more here; "Tips for Selling at Food and Farmers' Markets Your Local Markets, read more here; "Budgeting" Practical Money Skills, read more here.

Final Tip When you're opting for the long-term, build rapport for success, especially when you have great value and goods backing it. Create a lasting impression and help make your consumers comfortable with you by engaging them in conversation instead of staying seated on the side.

Solicit feedback by walking about or asking buyers what they think about your food. Ask them for some suggestions as you can learn from your consumers a thing or two. A steady, friendly presence not only builds a follower base but makes consumers and buyers, even just those browsing about, remember who you are and what you offer enough that they just look for you first instead of others they do not know about.

Browse more tips here at Gazebos Australia