It was with great envy that we received the news that this year’s Latitude Festival would be catered by Street Feast – it was undoubtedly a step-up from the lean, allegedly beef patty sandwiched between sliced white loaf that haunts the festival-going memories of our youth.
Since launching in 2012, Street Feast has emerged as one of the key tastemakers of the street food scene, with a knack for sniffing out the next big thing before it’s declared one by an Instagram influencer.
“We have a dedicated Food Boss, Harry Japp, whose job is to go out and actively source the best street food traders from around the UK, Europe and the world,” explains Alicia Sheppard, event sales manager for Street Feast. “Part of this also involves attending many food tastings, getting out and about and visiting food-led events, as well as heaps of research.”
For what was supposed to be a passing trend, street food has done a pretty good job of sticking around and becoming an established market in its own right – and, in a city as culturally diverse as London, it was bound to take off.
“We could envision that socialising and going out in London was evolving,” Sheppard begins. “The late-night clubbing scene has died off and people prefer a much more casual approach to going out – this has helped shape the new foodie culture which we’re all enjoying across the capital.”
Plus, with the world now the chef’s oyster, it is possible to cater to a whole host of demographics and dietary requirements.
“We have an array of street food offerings from all around the world that cater across the spectrum – you’ll always find vegan, gluten-free and other options on our traders’ menus,” says Sheppard. “There are endless possibilities with street food and I think this is part of the excitement and charm.”
Like most great ideas, Street Feast was spurred by what Sheppard describes as frustration – in this case the lack of access to great food in a casual environment.
“Before, you had to go to high-end restaurants, pay top dollar, and dine in a formal atmosphere to get access to such good-quality food,” says Sheppard.
In addition to quality food, its casualness has undoubtedly played a part in Street Feast’s success.
“Our guests can come dressed how they wish, bring their children, their dogs, or visit on a date,” Sheppard says. “However, they come and, for whatever reason, they are always met with a laid-back, informal atmosphere with great food, great drinks and good vibes.”
While it has a lot of regular vendors – like Yum Bun, which operates in every venue and has been with Street Feast from the very start – it has plenty of opportunities for new traders to come on board.
“We have a couple of showcase spots in each of our venues for new traders, and sometimes we also come up with our own concepts,” says Sheppard. “For example, last winter we had a rotating burger spot whereby we welcomed different burger vendors.”
It also features a ‘Killer Dish’ from local restaurants on social media every week.
“It’s a great way to introduce our foodie following to places around our venues and also build relationships with our neighbours, as well as being a great way to get a new trader on board,” she adds.
Renowned for transforming disused spaces into unique eating and drinking environments, Street Feast now has six permanent venues across the capital – Dinerama, Giant Robot, Public, Model Market, Hawker House and Hawker Union, which is the latest addition.
“It’s really exciting opening in new areas, especially those who do not know or are familiar with Street Feast and then seeing this take off as more and more people discover the concept,” says Sheppard.
She adds that there are plans to not only open more sites, but to also expand the concept and bring the much-loved street food across the UK and wider.
Street Feast operates day and evening events for the corporate market throughout the week – Dinerama, Giant Robot and Hawker House have all been driving its corporate bookings, which now represent 50% of the business.
“We’re really excited to be making waves in the events scene as we share our Street Feast concept with the corporate market,” Sheppard begins. “These spaces are fast becoming the London event planners’ go-to place for large-scale conferences, exhibitions, award ceremonies, product launches, experiential events and parties.”
All sites see huge footfall, particularly over the weekend when they are open to the public.
“In the summer, we open for both day and night, but in the winter we are open just in the evening. Giant Robot in Canary Wharf is open to the public both day and night, seven days a week,” she adds.
Currently, Street Feast boasts 30 food traders and 40 bars across its portfolio, with offerings to cater to an array of tastes. Traders range from steamed dumplings from Yumplings, fluffy bao buns from Yum Bun, wood-fired pizza from Fundi, twice-fried chicken from Mother Clucker to Venezuelan arepas from Petare, perfectly pink steak from Up In My Grill and fiery jerk chicken from White Men Can’t Jerk.
Street food is a concept that naturally works well at festivals, being both transportable and exotically tasty.
“We had a really successful stint at this year’s Field Day and Latitude. At both festivals, our areas were heaving and we had great feedback,” says Sheppard.
Latitude bosses believed that what you eat should be as good as what you see and hear at the festival, with Melvin Benn, Festival Republic MD, saying at the time: “Food has become a vital part of the festival experience and being the first major festival to offer some of Street Feast’s most exciting vendors is a true milestone.”
With the UK street food market currently worth over £1bn and Street Feast contributing around £13m of that, the festival clearly chose well.
“The demand for good food at festivals is much higher than it used to be,” says Sheppard. “Having us involved guaranteed Latitude’s organisers that they would have excellent-quality food, slick service and smooth operation.”
While its partnership with Field Day is in its fifth year, Latitude saw Street Feast showcase its biggest line-up yet, with more than 80 traders from London, Suffolk and across the UK serving a range of global goods.
“Our Food Boss spent months trialling food and curating an unbeatable line-up,” Sheppard explains. “We also had to ensure a big vegan and veggie offering was available due to the rise in demand there. Some of our meat-free traders like Club Mexicana are really noticing that this kind of concept is working well and it’s only just the beginning of this trend.”
Several of its traders, including Club Mexicana, Smokestak, Breddos and Hot Box, have even gone on to open their own permanent sites, and Street Feast has been more than just a stepping stone in seeing this happen.
“Our organisation is a great platform for traders to start their business; we help with training, marketing and in some cases even buy shares within their business to help catapult them into success,” says Sheppard.
Though fingers are firmly on the street food pulse at Street Feast HQ, customer opinion is still of utmost importance.
“Our business is built on word of mouth and social, so we make sure every guest leaves as a street food ambassador,” Sheppard says. “It’s important to us to continue to live up to our guests’ expectations and push ourselves so we always surprise and wow.”
Its reputation is key and it plans on maintaining the level it has achieved.
Sheppard adds: “We pride ourselves on providing the best street food in the industry. We founded and pioneered the street food movement in the UK and very much plan to continue to stay ahead of it.”