"Food is more of an experience than ever before, and food-to-go needs to embrace the experiential."
The Speciality & Fine Food Fair was full of great food and even finer insight. Panels made up of Adam Sopher (Joe & Seph’s Popcorn), Theo Lee-Houston (Kerb) and Katy Moses (KAM Media) debated the big topic of the show: the food-to-go market.
Food-to-go: adaptable theatre
The adaptable nature of street food was a stand-out topic. According to the panellists, food must deliver an emotional connection and give customers a sense of theatre. Consumers expect an experience as well as a premium product. Street food producers are achieving this by bringing noise, colour, interaction and excitement into production.
As a serious lover of all-things Teppanyaki, arguably the original ‘performance dining experience’, I completely understand the appeal. Food is more of an experience than ever before, and food-to-go needs to embrace the experiential.
Timing is key
According to Theo Lee-Houston, timing is key to a successful lunch time business. You have a two hour window to hit and should aim to make a portion every 20 seconds.
Trading on Mondays and Tuesdays have become redundant and therefore non-existent. Trading really starts on a Wednesday and continues getting busier throughout the week before reaching its peak by Sunday.
This makes sense. As part of human nature Monday brings the start of the week for most people. A fresh start, a chance to turn over a new leaf. People begin the new week how they would like to go on, eating healthy home cooked meals (perhaps leftover from the weekend’s dinners).
However by Wednesday this has gone out the window. As the saying goes, old habits die hard.
A nod to a healthy lifestyle
Food-to-go doesn’t need to be utterly healthy, but it needs to give a nod to a healthy lifestyle. According to Katy Moses, 16% of Generation Z are vegan, compared to 1% of the world’s population. 9% are actively cutting down sugar and 8% are with fat. This shows the direction our food is heading.
While street food doesn’t need to be ‘healthy’, it does need to nod to healthy trends. Vegan food isn’t guaranteed to be healthy, but it has the image of a healthy lifestyle (this is a major topic for another day). Stephanie Peritore (Mindful Bites) believes food-to-go shouldn’t just show off a monetary value, it should show off a health value as well. Eating junk food can be cheaper than making a well-balanced meal, but when you take into account the health implications of junk food, it costs considerably more.
Expect to see food-to-go getting even more flexi-friendly, and slightly healthier, in the near future.
In summary, in order to achieve a successful lunch time eatery you have to hit genuine customer needs. Offer a healthy(ish) option that brings a bit of theatre to lunch hours, especially for Wednesday and beyond.
Who knows, get it right and you might even convince people to come down on Mondays…