Taking a Bite Out of the Growing “Street Food” Market
“There is big, serious money floating around street food … It all comes from venture capital. Some of the most exciting restaurant openings of the past few years have been rooted in street food.”
- Richard Johnson, journalist and broadcaster, founder of the British Street Food Awards and author of Street Food Revolution
Street food started in Asia, spread globally and now Britain is getting a taste of the action. A mix between finger and fast food, this foodie feeling isn’t a fad, it’s a growing market. Street food is no longer an afterthought, it’s a rival to the pubs and clubs and with the Fall of the Nightclubs, the youth need somewhere to go.
British “street food” used to consist of a late night visit to a neon-lit kebab shop or a greasy pie at the football. Street markets sold high volume but low quality products. Consumers lost interest in the generic jumble and preferred to order quality items online.
But when the financial crisis hit, business owners faced a dilemma: “adapt or abandon.”
The successful owners returned to tradition and focused on quality food direct from local producers or on exotic produce. They specialised and created unique products which gave the public a reason to shop on the streets again. Street food vans, smaller premises, a presence at weekly markets are all low capital / low risk start-ups and chefs took the time to create and care for their new, minimalist menus.
Street food is an adventure. The phrase conjures up the image of steaming savoury dim sum parcels, hot and tender marinated meats falling from the bone, spicy burritos, salty tuna sashimi, fluffy sugary doughnuts - a sampling of unusual spices and flavours in a social setting. The community feeling is back on British streets.
Multi-vendor sites such as London’s Hawker House (a vast former warehouse with a fire pit, exotic meats and attractive locals) echo Madrid’s Mercado de San Ildefonso (4 industrial-inspired floors of tapas and shellfish topped with an open air terrace) and are on the rise, offering a carnival atmosphere.
The trick is to try as many dishes as you can without filling yourself up.
The immediacy and intimacy of the back-to-basics model appeals as people are tired of the impersonal “admin” required to order dubious food online. People have more disposable money in their pockets now but at the same time, memories of the credit crunch mean they want cheap alternatives to a restaurant meal:
“People perceive street food as restaurant quality but less expensive than a restaurant. 61% are saying that it’s less than their normal eating out spend therefore, street food is seen to be great value by those who consume it” Santa Maria Foodservice Street Food Report
On the flip side, the trend is curling back on itself and restaurants are being created directly from street food. These restaurants benefit from an existing social media following, since this was the best way to find them when they were street traders. The social media game of “finding and following” appeals to the generation who are keen to discover the next big thing, first.
Recession-busting entrepreneurialism, people seeking out the tastes of other cultures and a dash of healthy eating interest - the British food scene has the perfect ingredients for creating refreshing fare.
“The reason people like street food is because of the variety and being able to see fresh ingredients being prepared in front of them.” Santa Maria Foodservice Street Food Report
The street food phenomenon initially gave those with skill, passion and a taste for innovation, but little capital, the opportunity to make their dream a reality. Nowadays, we are looking to street food to revitalise our run-down markets, create a tourist destination, source entrepreneurs, spot upcoming food trends and serve quick, fresh, exciting bites. A tall, but tasty order …coming right up!
Do you dream of running your four-wheel heaven and travelling around serving the best of the best food? Here are our tips if you want to succeed in this adventure.