Street food dining is having an increasingly far-reaching influence on the eating out and catering industries, according to a new report.
The Street Food Report 2014, commissioned by Santa Maria, polled 150 people face-to-face across four different street food markets in London.
The figures also show that nearly half (47%) of consumers plan to eat more street food in the next 12 months than they do already.
The report also found that street food introduces people to new, global flavours; makes sharing plates and hand-held, easy-to-eat dishes more attractive; is perceived to be good value; and increases the social element of eating out.
The influence of this level of interest in street food can be seen in the current trend for small plates and sharing dishes, the report said, as people look to taste many different things in one meal.
Casual dining and catering operators should bear this in mind, the report suggested, and create easily sharable meals, hand-held dishes, and mix-and-match options.
Similarly, 68% of respondents said that street food has introduced them to new flavours and 80% say they like its adventurous, global nature. Indeed, the top five most popular kinds of street food were Mexican, Chinese, Thai, Indian and British, which translate loosely as burritos and tacos, noodles and curries, rice-based plates & traditional pies.
The factors of sociability and good value are also considered important, as, despite choosing street food for lunch (81% eat street food at lunchtime as opposed to any other time of day), buyers do not equate its cost with that of a cheap sandwich, but with proper, restaurant-quality food.
Thanks to this, a significant 64% are happy to pay upwards of £5 per person, with 61% saying this is less than they would normally spend, and 37% saying this was a lot less. This makes street food an attractive profit opportunity as austerity-weary consumers are enticed to spend a bit more to enjoy themselves, despite not feeling much richer than before.
This is especially true if customers can see the food being prepared in front of them, and perceive it as "fresh".
The sociable element is also apparent; street food is not an experience for two, the report said, with the majority preferring to either discover street markets with friends or a larger group, or simply trying different stalls solo.
Equally, street food trend is still more about authentic, locally-produced food, rather than a carefully-prepared, marketed, international product.
Street food can also have a direct influence on the casual dining market, with brands such as Wahaca, Homeslice, Pizza Pilgrims and MeatLiquor all established either as a direct result of a popular street food van or a stall, or a conscious effort to replicate its style.
This cycle, whereby stalls start small, become popular, set up one pop-up or permanent site, and then expand to several sites, is likely to continue in the next few years or so, the report suggested.
Other established casual-dining brands have also seen a direct street food influence, such as Giraffe, which added a kimchi burger to its menu in 2013, Wagamama with its pork gyoza, Ed's Easy Diner and its pulled pork hot dog, and Cabana with its "starters and street food" menu, including empanadas.
Top tips for operators, according to the report
•Give customers a choice of flavours by introducing street-food inspired dishes to your menu
•Change your street-food inspired dishes regularly as consumers love variety and will keep coming back if they know they will have the chance to try something different
•Offer smaller but fresher portions of the food, encouraging consumers to buy and share more, but also reducing your food waste thanks to smaller quantities
•Although street food is usually considered an option at lunchtime, consumers see its price in terms of a "proper meal", with most willing to pay upwards of £5 or more per person
•Don't be afraid of spice, unusual flavours, or international-inspired dishes, as people see street food as a low-risk way of trying new foods
•Make your menu as authentic as possible, including locally-sourced or inspired elements, and dishes genuinely reflecting your brand and/or background