"Traditional, sit-down dining is slowing down, and being overtaken by street food and pop-up trends, it seems. "
Research carried out by Eventbrite shows that the number of food and drink events hosted on its platform is increasing each year — which shows an exciting shift from traditional and formal dining towards a more casual and even unconventional experience.
But what about dining is changing for people in the UK and leading to a rise in associated events? To look into the trend, Eventbrite examined more than 40,000 of these events and discovered that the pop-up dining experience was the fastest-growing in popularity — recording 82% growth. Could this be the end of ‘traditional’ dining as we know it and will the food industry continue to move away from brick and mortar establishments?
The rise of the pop-up food industry
Is it a surprise that we’re choosing to experience a different type of dining? According to a recent survey, nearly a quarter of adults claim that their main frustration when dining in traditional restaurants is waiting — perhaps a pop-up service simply eliminates this annoyance.
But what else could be causing the trend? To help shed light on this, we consulted an Eventbrite survey involving more than 2,000 people who had attended a pop-up dining experience. Three quarters of pop-up event attendees believe that it’s worth paying more money in order to enjoy a unique dining experience. Around half of respondents also said that they would be happy to pay more for a meal from the same menu at a pop-up event if they could watch the chef cook, as opposed to one served in a regular restaurant. It seems that once popular chain and franchise restaurants can no longer tempt customers with their relaxed atmospheres and competitive prices.
Evidently, people like watching their food being made in front of them, but perhaps other aspects of food and drink are compelling people to step away from formal dining. 66% of all UK adults describe themselves as being passionate about food and drink, so, it’s clear that the UK is becoming a foodie nation. It’s no surprise that, for 84% of survey respondents, it was a unique menu or theme that attracted them to pop-up food. This was followed by events held at memorable locations (76%) and occasions that promised to be a one-of-a-kind experience (74%).
Experiencing something unique seems to be on the minds of those who enjoy this type of dining style.
Melissa King, creator of pop-up restaurant, Co+Lab, states that professionals strive to put their own stamp on their food and cooking event in the pop-up industry. She commented: “There are so many chefs out there — they have their restaurants, their day jobs, but they’re looking for something more. That’s what the pop-up culture offers them. They are able to take over someone’s space for only a few hours and convert it into their own identity. It’s not just about the food, it’s about creating a memorable experience for the guests.”
Of course, the pop-up dining experience depends on the variety and quality of the food. It’s an opportunity for chefs looking for a new challenge or to promote their favourite dishes. What was once a place for the greasy spoon white food van is now a place for local food businesses to showcase a variety of delicacies and new recipes — from Thai and Chinese, to Mexican and Caribbean.
Street food on the rise
Street food and the pop-up food industry seem to go hand in hand. In fact, search volumes suggest an 80% increase in popularity of the street food trend over the past two years and UN-FAO statistics claim that street food is now eaten by an estimated 2.5 billion people worldwide. Even streetfood.org.uk had 2,800 members with over 7,000 units serving food across the UK as of 2015!
People from other countries may see the UK’s recent uptake of the street food trend as bizarre — in countries like Thailand, it is almost a tradition. A fledgling artisan industry in the UK, street food has proven popular as the produce available is usually inexpensive, provides a nutritional source that is based on traditional knowledge and often follows the seasonality of farm production.
For entrepreneurs who wish to get involved in street food but don’t have a start-up budget, this sector may be ideal. The street food business is typically a cost-effective one to get into, with general guidelines suggested by The Hub detailing that a small second-hand catering trailer or market stall could be acquired for under £5,000. A report by the Nationwide Caterers Association acknowledges that a fully equipped market stall can be bought for around £3,000 and a food truck for an estimated £10,000.
“Street food as a trend is certainly growing, although it’s still not at the same level as in New York. I think it will die off a little as a trend and then become a normal, everyday offer. A lot of office workers go to street food stalls to buy their lunch and eat something healthy, cheap and different. There are so many trends within food but it works when you consider that people are money conscious and like variety,” said Charlie Morse, a street food vendor, to Produce Business UK.
Traditional, sit-down dining is slowing down, and being overtaken by street food and pop-up trends, it seems. Money is no longer the main decision maker for where to eat — people are now willing to pay more for something different. So, is it possible that pop-up restaurants and street food have carved the way for a new wave of casual diners enjoying a one-of-a-kind experience?
This article was researched and created by LPG supplier, Flogas.