Safe, Profitable Events

Mark Laurie’s 10 point check list for success at outdoor events.

When it comes to running a public event there is much you should know and do to ensure that it’s safe, legally compliant and, of course, profitable. Your traders, your employees and the public will be your responsibility and there’s nothing more important than keeping them safe and making sure they have a great time. Get started with this handy checklist.


  1. Find the right venue
    Before you start physically looking take the time to write down the most important elements you want from a venue and stick to that list. If you find the right place at the right price (especially if it’s in a high footfall area), snap it up. Before you go in all guns blazing, know that securing a high footfall area is a hard task. For obvious, commercial reasons, high footfall locations are very expensive. Don’t be disheartened: with the right promotion you can turn a venue that’s off the beaten track into a must-visit destination.
  1. Ensure you have the right licences
    During the early stages of event organisation contact your local authority, explain the ins and outs of your event and ask which licences you will need. If you’re planning to have alcohol or other entertainment, which may require additional licensing, ensure you mention the fact. The licences you’re likely to need will include:
  • temporary events notice for events where the capacity at any one time is 499 or fewer and which will run for less than 96 hours
  • premises licence for events with a capacity of over 499 and which will run for more than 96 hours (many venues already hold one)
  • a personal licence (if you’re planning to sell alcohol yourself)
  • licences from the Performing Rights Society and/or Phonographic Performance Limited for playing copyrighted music
  • a street collections permit (necessary if you will be collecting money or selling goods for charitable purposes in a public place)
  1. Create a safety plan
    You’ll need to carry out multiple risk assessments to pinpoint every possible hazard and put measures in place to minimise them. Walk around your event space looking for anything that potentially could cause harm to workers or customers. Don’t forget fire and electrical risks, crowd management and emergency services’ access. Always bear in mind the location, type of event, venue size and anticipated attendance. There are some really useful risk assessment templates on the HSE website but if in doubt call in the help of an expert.
  1. Create an emergency plan
    Legally you’ve got to have effective plans at the ready in case you ever need to respond to emergency health and safety situations. Your plan should be relative to the level of risk presented by what’s going on at your event and the potential severity of the incidents that could happen. You’ll need to consider the key risks to your event visitors and develop emergency procedures that staff and volunteers should follow if it’s ever necessary. Your emergency plan should address these areas:
  • getting people away from danger
  • calling for emergency services
  • looking after casualties
  • handling guests who are not injured but who have had to be moved
  • liaising with the appropriate authorities, and
  • protecting property

You should ensure all staff and volunteers know what to do in case of an emergency, including:

  • raising the alarm
  • informing event guests
  • responding to the situation (eg, use of fire extinguishers)
  • calling for emergency services
  • crowd management
  • evacuation
  • providing first aid, and
  • traffic management
  1. Get insurance
    Having comprehensive event insurance is vital; you must ensure you are properly and adequately covered by a reputable broker or insurer. You’ll definitely need liability insurance and probably equipment cover, cancellation, abandonment or postponement and adverse weather cover too. If you need help or advice you can reach the only NCASS approved insurance broker on 0121 603 2524. Among other things, it specialises in events insurance.


  1. Find your traders
    There are many ways to find great food traders for your event – Twitter, word of mouth and NCASS Connect to name a few. Use the latter for free as many times as you like and view trader profiles, make shortlists, contact traders and view hygiene documents. You’ll find more information about NCASS Connect below. You’ll also want to decide, by considering the demographic of your target audience, which non-food traders will enhance your event and bring in revenue.
  1. Pin down paperwork
    Once you’ve agreed who’s trading, and before you sign the contracts, ensure you have sight of each trader’s legal and safety documentation (like insurance and training certificates, gas safety and electrical certificates, food safety risk assessments, etc). You need to be certain that your traders aren’t going to cause trouble by holding out of date risk assessments or lacking the appropriate hygiene training.

To protect yourself as much as the traders you should always provide a written contract outlining the terms of each pitch at your event. You should include details of the pitch the trader has agreed to, the expected number of guests and the total quantity of food and non-food traders present, amongst other things.

If you have found and contracted your food traders through NCASS Connect you’ll already have their documentation stored for you to refer to whenever you need it. You can share these documents with enforcement teams with just one click. Environmental health officers (EHOs) can assess the documentation and notify you of any potential issues with individual traders. Not only is this useful for your own peace of mind but it’s also a great way to improve the relationship with your local authority.

  1. Hand-washEnsure all hands are clean
    Before the event ensure that every food trader has separate hand washing facilities within their trading unit as it’s a legal requirement. If an EHO shows up and finds people trading without these facilities then that’s going to reflect badly on you and may result in the trader being shut down.
  1. Consider the weather
    Every good event organiser has a contingency plan for when the weather doesn’t play ball. You might like to have emergency options for undercover areas in case the heavens open. Depending on the size of your event, investing in some gazebos or even having full marquee back up in place could do you no end of favours if the weather just doesn’t go your way on the day. Don’t forget that you may also need to provide trackway for vehicle access and pallets to keep visitors’ feet dry.
  1. Don’t forget about waste disposal
    You’ll need to ensure you have a decent waste disposal plan in place well in advance of the event. It’s not just general bins that will need emptying regularly; think of the waste your food and non-food traders will likely produce too. Waste needs to go somewhere out of sight of customers, and quickly. Similarly, if you’re holding your event in a loo-less location, find a high quality toilet provision so that people can go in comfort.

NCASS Connect
NCASS Connect is free for all UK event organisers and it’s one of the most useful tools you can have under your belt. NCASS Connect is an online hub system that essentially helps you make fewer phone calls, to stress less, to improve relationships with your local authority and to make some ‘me time’ during the run up to the big day.

With your free account you can create events like you would on Facebook, browse traders’ profiles and pictures and contact the traders you want to see trading at your event. More importantly, you can review and store traders’ legal and training documentation and share them with relevant enforcement teams so that they can confirm traders are good to go.

Mark-LaurieAbout the Author
Mark Laurie is director at the Nationwide Caterers Association (NCASS), the only trade association and primary authority for mobile caterers and street food sellers in the UK. The NCASS mission is to provide traders with all the information, systems and support they need for a profitable, safe and legal business. From start-ups to fully-fledged mobile ventures, NCASS offers support and materials to help caterers at any stage of business. Currently looking after 3,500 UK catering businesses, NCASS continues to grow year on year as a result of its care for and support to the catering and events industry.

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