Pub food trends - Street food and takeaways

Demand for high quality street food and takeaways has really taken off in recent years, and there are no signs that this is likely to change.  For pub operators it offers a fantastic opportunity to get a share of this lucrative market and differentiate their pubs by offering customers an alternative to traditional pub food.

In this post we explore this important pub food trend and offer advice for pub operators looking to offer street food and takeaway services.

Trendy and Innovative Street Food

Over the past few years, street food has become one of the most dominant trends in casual dining. Initially sold from vans at festivals and on the streets, it has expanded into street feast markets attracting thousands of diners in big cities and towns.  Street food can be extremely profitable, with some traders enjoying 20% profit margins.

Now we’re seeing street food moving into the pub food scene, providing customers with a new experience in the pub environment. This style of food is ideal for the casual dining offered in pubs.  Forget frozen burgers and hot dogs, this is casual dining providing food that is innovative, quick, tasty and easy to prepare. The key to street food is in the variety of tastes and flavours that are involved.  It may be specialised regional cuisine such as Indian food from Gujarat or Kerala; Mexican; Taiwanese or South Asian; or dietary related such as vegan or gluten free. 

Street food traders are even jazzing up simple traditional food.  Macaroni and cheese is a long time staple offering in many pubs, street food has taken this concept and turned into mac&cheese by adding exotic flavours including chilli con carne. Jacket potatoes have been given a new lease of life with a host of different filling combinations or crepes with fillings that can include pizza or pesto. Even the humble burger and chips can draw a crowd when made from Wagu beef or hung for 21 days. 

Many of the dishes on offer are vegetarian or vegan inspired, thus appealing to the extremely large number of diners who don’t eat meat or fish.   There is an ever-changing demand for new flavours and combinations, as customers are keen to explore food types and are open to new ideas.

Street Food An Opportunity For Pub Operators

Replicating this style of food within a pub is a great way to differentiate your menus, introduce specials and creating outdoor cooking occasions. It is particularly suitable as a way of increasing covers during the summer months, especially if your existing kitchen struggles to cater for customers in the pub garden as well as inside. 

Many pubs are setting up street food kitchens in the garden, especially during special events such as beer festivals. Customers who want to eat in the garden are catered for from the street food kitchen, whereas the pub’s indoor kitchen looks after customers in the restaurant or bar areas. A simple way to increase food covers without adding to your kitchen staff’s workload adversely is to install a pizza oven in the pub garden. This can be operated by a small team focused on cooking and serving customers outside.

Alternatively, some pubs are inviting street food vendors to provide pop up kitchens within the garden. This avoids additional outlay on equipment or staffing, since the street trader brings their own kitchen and pays you a rental or share of the profits. An added advantage is that by inviting street food traders along, you can vary the food offer from event to event, or throughout the summer.  This ensures that your total catering offer is kept fresh and varied, as you are always offering something new and different to keep customers interested.  It is a valuable way of trialling food concepts, seeing what works with your customer base while also bringing in new customers.

Some caterers and organisations such as British Street Food have also worked directly in house with pubs by taking on pub residencies.  This involves the street trader taking over the pub kitchen and its menu for a specific period of time.  This can offer considerable benefits to the pub operator, especially if they are between chefs or considering adding a food offer.  The pub operator benefits from the street food traders knowhow and also their customer base; they tend to be very strong on social media and customers seek them out at wherever they are trading. 

Tap Into The Takeaway Market

Street food is designed to be portable, which makes it ideal for takeaway meals – another trend that is increasingly popular.  Takeaway food represents a major area of growth within the pub industry covering not just street food and pizza, but pub classics like fish and chips or the pub’s signature burger.  Providing a takeaway service is great for pub customers who want to have a drink and then take high quality food home with them. 

In addition, it is worth considering the potential market offered by using digital apps like Deliveroo and JustEat.  These apps have an extensive user base, and are a valuable way of increasing a pub’s reach to customers who may have never physically visited the pub. Providing takeaway food becomes an extra service that can be made available at little cost to the pub operator, but adds another revenue stream and opportunity to reach new customers. 

Offering good food that is on trend, high quality and quick to serve is key to increasing overall sales.  People want to eat out, or get takeaways or food delivered, but they do not necessarily want a fine dining experiences.

Pubs are a perfect fit for casual dining, which accounts for much of the eating and takeaway market in the UK.  With demand for street food booming, this is one trend that pub operators are ideally positioned to take advantage of.

If you want to offer street food or a takeaway service in your pub, speak to your Business Development Manager to get their advice and support.

If you’re considering applying to run a pub and are exploring ideas for building a great food offer, apply to a run a pub with Greene King today and we can help you develop your ideas and find a pub that’s a great fit for you.