The street food revolution

With foodie street vendors popping up all over cities, at festivals and anywhere there are hungry punters, it’s time to embrace the UK’s latest craze

Two decades ago, the prospect of buying a meal from a street vendor would have struck fear into your average customer. Just the
sheer mention of street food would conjure up images of an overpriced, soggy burger and tasteless chips that leave you feeling queasy after a few bites.

But nowadays, the reality of the street food revolution couldn’t be further from what was once considered to be the truth.

With a boom in popularity of mobile food vans and stalls containing continental cuisine, street food has hit fever pitch. In fact, it’s now hard to walk through a music festival or busy city centre at the weekend without being greeted by an array of tastes to choose from.

And naturally as demand grows – research by Santa Maria suggested that last year 94% of street food eaters would eat the same or more cuisine bought from vendors – so does the quality of what’s being served up.

For wholesalers, providing this new breed of customer with the ingredients they need to  draw people to their stalls, means making sure quality is high, so food not only tastes good, but looks too good to ignore as well.

Part of the UK’s street-food boom is down to the ever-increasing foodie interest in experimenting with what they’re eating too. A trip to any market will reveal a clutch of continental stalls, offering flavours and dishes from all over the globe. What’s more, it’s almost always cooked authentically, feeding consumers’ desire to discover cuisine that comes from further than just our shores.

With the way the nation eats continuing to change, Wholesale News visited Piccadilly Gardens Street Food Market in Manchester to find out what traders and customers want on their perfect menu.

Sarah Patel, Simply Delicious

“Street food is all about live cooking and getting good takeaway food. It’s very popular because people don’t just want fast food anymore: they want something that tastes good and has traditional flavours. For us, that’s Indian food, but all the stalls are different.

“A lot of people like street food – you should see the queue at lunchtime. When you’re working in the city every day, you don’t want to be eating sandwiches and cold salad all the time. People look forward to getting some warm food
when the market is here.

“Quality is important, but the food needs to look good to the eye as well. I always make sure my food standard is good – it doesn’t matter how long the queue is, serving food at the right temperature and with the best possible presentation is very important.

“I don’t buy anything pre-made and all my food is made by family or friends, so has a homemade quality to it. We purchase the raw ingredients and make up the menu from there, and you can taste that in our meat and samosas.

“My prices have stayed the same for the past five years, even though costs for ingredients have gone up. The reason is that I know people who work in the city have got enough expense, so we want to make our food affordable. Volume of customers is most important and providing value for money helps.”

Wahel Hussain, Falafel King

“I’m originally from Syria, but have been running my own street-food stall in Manchester for three years now. I used to have a falafel stall back home in Syria, so tried to use my skills when I moved to Manchester too – I like being my own boss.

“All the food we sell here is the same as I did in Syria. Our food tastes as good as it did back home because I’ve been able to find all the raw ingredients to make the flavours I need.

“I make the falafel mix myself. Getting the right ingredients so we can make the flavour of the falafel and hummus is very important. It’s easy to find the products I want by going to many places, including the cash and carry. It’s what customers want – they like their food to have an authentic taste when they come here.”

Xiong Chenn, No.1 Chinese Food

“I’ve been working on street-food markets for five or six years and was a quantity surveyor before I started. We sold sushi at first, but it was too expensive and not everybody likes it, so we made the decision to focus on Chinese instead.

“Noodles are a very common food that people are aware of and chicken is something everyone eats. I need to know what’s in my dishes, but also choose something that I know customers like – our salt and pepper chicken is the most popular.

“I buy the best possible meat and noodles. If the product has less quality, it won’t last throughout the day and bad noodles will melt, so the ingredients need to be the best I can get. If it tastes nice then people will come back too, which is something you need to make money in this business.

“I go to the wholesaler for the basic ingredients, then cook it all from scratch. We buy raw chicken, noodles and rice, then create the taste with the cooking. We offer tasters for people as well, so the flavour has got to be nice to get the sale.”

To read the full feature, pick up June’s Wholesale News or check out the free digital edition.

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