Side hustle foodies turning homes into takeaways

“I’m always the barbecue guy, even if I go to someone else’s barbecue I’m the guy who takes over, I always gravitate to the fire.”

Matt O’Brien says he embraces being something of a stereotype - a man who loves nothing more than cooking meat outdoors.

His hobby has now become a side hustle, with his home in Penarth, Vale of Glamorgan, turned into a pop-up takeaway on weekends.

With restaurant closures seemingly constantly in the news, Matt is one of a number of foodies who are taking the cheaper and less risky method of setting up their food business from home.

Since the Covid pandemic, the restaurant industry has experienced high energy bills, increased food and drink prices and a cut in business rate relief.

This year, in Cardiff alone, a number of restaurants - including Kindle, Brass Beetle, along with the Conway pub - announced they were shutting as a result of rising costs.

Last month Pizza chain Papa Johns announced it would close nearly a tenth of its UK restaurants as the sites were "no longer financially viable".

Just this week, Premier Inn owner Whitbread announced it would cut 1,500 jobs as it closes restaurants and expands its hotel business.

A close up of Matt O'Brien chopping in his kitchen
Matt started his business as a hobby alongside his full-time job [@ollierosserphoto]

Matt, 37, who has a full-time job at Cardiff University, decided to set up Matty's BBQ Chop Shop following encouragement from friends and family.

“They said ‘you’re cooking it anyway, you should sell this’ - so I took the plunge," he said.

He said it all felt pretty low risk.

“The reason I did it from home was it was cheap," he said.

“I'm already paying for this house so any money I can save I can pass onto the customer.

"I've already got the kit, I already love being here and if anything did happen with the company I still have a house to be in, I'm not kicked out on the street like many of these other companies."

Matt said his wife and their three-year-old daughter helped him develop his menu by tasting his creations, which are inspired by barbecue dishes from around the world.

"Then on pop-up nights it's the case of daughter out to the grandparents and then it's show time."

However, after all this, is he making any money?

“At the moment I've got a six-month business plan where I'm putting the money back into the business, getting better equipment, signage, pots, pans, everything that you need," Matt said.

“Then after that I can start saving and we’ll see what happens. At the moment it's just a little side hustle."

May runs a Thai take-away from her house in Roath, Cardiff [BBC]

Across Cardiff, in Roath, Sranya Khaengkhan, who is also called May, runs Thai takeaway Hug Paeng from the home she shares with her husband and their cat.

She had been a kindergarten teacher in her native Nong Khai province in Thailand and decided on a career change when she emigrated to Cardiff five years ago.

After working long and anti-social hours in a Vietnamese restaurant in the city for 18 months, May decided to quit and start her own business to try to get a better work-life balance.

'I don’t need to pay for anything'

Initially she thought of running her business from a van, but the start-up costs and parking were an issue, so she set up from home.

“The benefits for me are I don't have a lot of expenses, everything I need to buy I go on foot," said the 36-year-old.

"I don’t mind walking seven or eight miles to go shopping to different places with my backpack as I can work and also work out.

“It’s only me who works in the kitchen so I don’t need to pay for staff or anything."

Are there any negatives?

“Of course your home will sometimes get smells of food and working alone in the kitchen you could get like ‘I would like to see people’," she said.

May on a recent visit to see friends and family in Thailand
May recently visited her family and friends in Thailand [Hug Paeng]

Customers who want to collect their takeaway in person book and pay through her website and those who want delivery can get it through Deliveroo or Uber Eats.

May is happy with what she has been able to create from home.

“There was a time I was thinking ‘should I expand my business?’ but I'd have to pay for the rent and staff," she said.

"It’s perfect for me like this but for someone else they might like to expand bigger and I totally understand."

It also allows her the free time she was missing before.

What about profit?

“The profit isn’t the first priority for me," said May.

"I like to make food that my customers can enjoy, my customers work so hard and they’d like to have a meal with their family - if my food can make them happy that can make me happy too."

May's tom yum soup
May is able to source ingredients from Asian grocery shops in Cardiff [Hug Paeng]

What do I need to do to run a takeaway food business from home?

  • Register with your local authority at least 28 days before trading and you will receive a home visit for a food hygiene inspection

  • Permission may be needed from your mortgage provider or landlord and local council

  • Inform HMRC that you are self-employed

  • Comply with food hygiene and food standards

  • Provide allergen information

More information can be found on the Food Standards Agency and Business Wales websites.