Oink London (soon-to-be Oink Farmyard) was co-founded by partners Tommy and Hannah, who serves up delicious, gourmet bacon butties and pork burgers out of their food truck, which they have named Percy. Using top-quality, free range British pork allows Oink London to cut their CO2 emissions by over two third, compared to using beef mince. They are also committed to sourcing everything locally, and to only using packaging that is biodegradable. What’s not to love? Hawkker spoke with Hannah about creating their business, their love of food markets, and how Oink London has been adapting to pandemic restrictions.
Tell us about you!
Tommy (27) and I (28) are partners in life and business. We met at Leeds Beckett University in 2012, where Tommy was studying for his Business degree and I was doing Events Management. After university, we had some decisions to make; with Tommy being a Northerner and myself a Southerner, we knew that to carry on our journey, someone was going to have to give. It was then that we made a leap into London life together. It wasn't until 2018 when we were globetrotting around the world that we decided to embark on our food truck adventure.
What drove you to start your business? How did you get started?
We were inspired by so many cultures of street food from many different countries whilst on our travels, and it was fascinating to see how much the street food industry was growing. We knew that with Tommy’s passion for cooking, going into the street food industry was a dream we could make happen for ourselves. Having experienced such a wide variety of flavours that we loved, we wanted to bring these flavours home with us but keep them rooted in British tradition.
That’s how Oink London was born. We thought of a traditionally British dish that everyone loves: the Bacon Butty (even the veggies among us admittedly go weak when it comes to the smell of bacon). But we wanted to transform this staple from a breakfast bap into more of an all-day indulgence by adding more flavours and fillings inspired by flavours from all over the world. Within six months, we realised the bacon butty was a breakfast staple for a reason, and so we transformed our flavoured butties into pork burgers (whilst keeping the signature bacon and egg on our menu). Doing burgers meant we could tap more into the lunchtime and evening markets without having to persuade people that a bacon butty isn’t just for breakfast.
What do you love most about trading in markets and working from a van?
There are many highlights to working in a food truck for us; the customer interaction you get to have on a daily basis, seeing people’s faces genuinely light up when they see the burger that we always put out on display to entice people, and then the feedback you get when someone has made the effort to walk back and stop at the truck to comment on how delicious the food was. But above and beyond all, a major highlight is how friendly everyone within the street food industry is. When you work at a market, you get to trade food with other trucks and try all the insane street food that’s about today.
How did you settle on the name, Oink London? And what inspired the fun menu item names?
We knew Oink would be a name that fit perfectly, considering it was going to be an all-bacon everything food truck, and even now that we’re incorporating pork burgers, the name is luckily still very fitting. We are actually in the process of changing our trading name to Oink Farmyard to fit with our sister truck Cluck Farmyard, which has the exact same look and brand to Oink but instead – as you can probably guess – sells buttermilk fried chicken and chips.
The fun menu item names came from a long afternoon sat by the lake outside our camper van in New Zealand, thinking up a whole host of piggy puns. We wanted our menu item names to be fun and memorable. Having said that, we have found that while this works at regular markets and pitches, when we go to fast-paced events and festivals we have to make the names a bit more basic, i.e. The Spicy Burger (rather than Pepper Pig) and The BBQ Burger (instead of Notorious P.I.G.) or else you get lots of questions which slow you down. In those situations you really want to telegraph from afar what you are selling.
What's your best-selling menu item? And what would you recommend everyone try?
Our best-seller is the Notorious P.I.G. – you’ve got to get your hands on one of these. It’s a hand smashed pork patty with streaky bacon, homemade bacon chilli jam, smoky BBQ sauce, apple slaw, melted cheese and topped with crispy onions - it’s a WINNER!
Why is it important to you that your ingredients be locally sourced and environmentally friendly?
It is important for us to be as sustainable as possible and support local food suppliers where we can, to ensure our food is fresh and of top quality, and to ensure the journey it has been on to get to us hasn't had a negative impact on the environment. The local butcher and bakery we use help us create a better product, and it means we’re never too far away should we need more supply last minute. A lot of events and festivals now only take on food traders that are sustainable and environmentally friendly, so this is key if you want to have a chance of winning applications to the best events.
How have you adjusted to Covid-19 restrictions?
In the early days of Covid-19 we started doing deliveries from our prep kitchen, which worked well for us, kept us busy and kept money coming in – despite the large commission fees which delivery apps charge! But as restrictions loosened up after Lockdown 1.0, we stopped doing the deliveries and managed to get the truck back out, but focused on weekend markets rather than setting up outside offices in the week, as there were just not enough people there to make it worth our while. Now having gone back into Lockdown 2.0, we’re laying low and taking time to work behind the scenes on our new, first permanent site, which we are due to open asap after lockdown. WATCH THIS SPACE!
What are your hopes/concerns regarding trading in the next few months, particularly in light of a second lockdown?
Winter tends to be a quieter time of the year for street food markets anyway, as the weather turns wet and windy. So with this on top of the second lockdown, it will impact the business quite badly. Also, with no big events going ahead due to lockdown restrictions, it means no Bonfire Night weekend and fewer Christmas markets, which are both things that usually get us through the winter months.
What are your long-term goals for Oink London?
We are looking to open a number of small, permanent kiosk-style sites across London, before developing into larger sites across London and its surrounding counties.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
No, other than to ask everyone keep safe and keep on supporting local food businesses (and all small local businesses) throughout these tough times, so that we can make it through to the other end and provide you with the best burgers around town!