The rise of the pop-up food industry

The rise of the pop-up food industry

A shift in restaurant trends has led to more events being hosted across the food and beverage industry than ever before. Eventbrite finding show that the number of food and drink events hosted on its platform is increasing each year, moving away from traditional, formal dining towards a more casual, unique dining experience.

Eventbrite analysed over 40,000 of these events and found that the pop-up dining experience was the fastest growing trend — recording 82% growth, with search volumes for street food also growing by 80% between 2014 and 2016. Could this be the end of dining as we know it?

With 70% adults in a recent survey now admitting that their main frustration when dining in traditional restaurants is the aspect of waiting, it’s no surprise that people are gravitating towards the new dining experience.

Here, one of the UK’s leading LPG suppliers to businesses Flogas discusses how the food industry has shifted away from brick and mortar establishments…

The rise of the pop-up food industry

One Eventbrite survey involving over 2,000 people who have attended a pop-up dining experience has shed light on why the events have proven so attractive to the public.

75% of pop-up event attendees are of the belief that it’s worth paying more money in order to witness a unique dining experience. Around half of respondents also said that they would be happy to pay more for a meal from the exact same menu at a pop-up event where chef interaction is involved 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.

So, what is important to those attending a pop-up event? With 66% of all UK adults describing themselves as passionate about food and drink, it is clear that the UK is becoming somewhat of 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%).

Foodies are now looking for something different when they dine out – the traditional, formal dining experience doesn’t seem to make the cut anymore.

Chef Melissa King, the creator of pop-up restaurant, Co+Lab, believes that creating a unique event works both ways in terms of the pop-up food industry. She explained: “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.”

At food and drink events, it’s not just a unique dining experience that is on offer for guests. It’s also 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.

The rise of street food

As the pop-up food industry has increased in popularity, so has street food – search volumes suggest an 80% increase in popularity of the trend over the past two years. Street food is enjoying a golden period at the moment. UN-FAO statistics claim that street food is now eaten by an estimated 2.5 billion people worldwide and had some 2,800 members with over 7,000 units serving food across the UK as of 2015.

Street food has been around for years in countries across the globe, such as Thailand but is relatively new the UK. 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.

And the beauty of the street food business is that not only do you have the opportunity to create a unique and tasty experience for your customers, but getting set up doesn’t need to be costly either, 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.

Charlie Morse is a street food vendor himself and was keen to point out to Produce Business UK: “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.”

Final thoughts

With the rise of this alternative dining experience, the shift in restaurant trends has meant traditional, formal dining has taken a back seat. Money is no longer the main decision maker for where to eat – people are now willing to pay more for something different. ‘Sit down’ meals are slipping in popularity – instead, pop-up restaurants and street food have carved the way for casual dining and a one-of-a-kind experience.




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