Influx of food halls hitting the UK food scene

Article Drink Events Food Job
25 February 2019

It’s 12.30 and it’s nearly lunchtime. Stomachs are rumbling, but luckily, London street food vendors are busy rustling up exotic dishes in time for the midday rush.

Step down into King’s Cross and you’ll find KERB market, an incubator for rising stars of the street food world, or take a trip to Borough Market where you’ll find small, artisan vendors serving up oozing cheesy fondues and mouth-watering salt beef sandwiches. One thing’s clear, whether you’re filling up on a sushi burrito or a unicorn milkshake, street food is at the forefront of food innovation.

Increasingly, thanks in part to social media, consumers are now seeking out new flavours, and unusual, but winning combinations. “When we first started trading four years ago there was very little variety in street food available and certainly hardly anything for vegetarians,” says Jenny Thompson co-founder of Market Operations. “People’s thirst for knowledge is huge – they want to know the history of the dish, what’s in it and how you make it,” says Jonathan Downey, Chief Executive of London Union.

“People’s thirst for knowledge is huge – they want to know the history of the dish, what’s in it and how you make it,” says Jonathan Downey, Chief Executive of London Union.

Faceless restaurant chains don’t quite cut the mustard anymore. Instead we’re turning our eating habits to food vendors that offer worldly influences. Since January 2018, 12 branches of Jamie’s Italian closed and this year, Prezzo and Carluccio’s are to close 94 and 30 restaurants respectively. However, in response to the suffering high street chains, there’s a new movement taking over in the form of food halls.

Food halls are cropping up in urban spaces, with a whole new persona, offering up hand-picked food vendors at the top of their game. According to property agents Cushman & Wakefield, there are 16 market food halls scheduled to open in 2019 in London alone.

Reflecting this, Street Feast’s Dinerama boasts over seven kitchens with 250 communal dining seats and live DJs throughout the night. Market Halls hasn’t missed a beat either, transforming historic buildings into luxurious food halls, with two sites in central London and another set to open at the end of 2019. Hot on the heels of this trend, KERB market will be opening its flagship permanent market, replacing makeshift marquees with polished counters. But the best is yet to come. In 2020, London is expecting its biggest food hall so far: New York’s Eataly, which has been branded a ‘foodie theme park’.

In 2020, London is expecting its biggest food hall so far: New York’s Eataly, which has been branded a ‘foodie theme park’.

Further afield, in Greater Manchester, the Altrincham Market has re-generated the area offering five kitchens and a craft beer bar. Without stopping to catch his breath, founder, Nick Johnson has opened a second site Manchester’s Mackie Mayor which seats 180 people. Between the two sites, 25,000 people are fed per week – and that’s no mean feat!

So, with the influx of food halls, what’s next for the future of street food? One thing’s for sure, street food traders are evolving with the ever-changing demand for new cuisines. This is trickling down into mainstream supermarkets with the introduction of Schwartz street food seasoning and flavours of crisps containing pho and teriyaki flavours. With the rise of street food in our everyday lives, there are rumours that a street food supermarket will be developed in 2020 targeting time-poor commuters in search of a quick meal and some groceries. However, until then, I’m going to head down to KERB and get stuck into my lunchtime Venezuelan chip butty. 

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