Food markets are taking London by storm, providing guests with fantastic choice in food and drink and a cracking atmosphere to boot, writes Charlie Martin
Recently the FSC team visited Mercato Metropolitano in South London, a short walk from Borough Tube station. The place was buzzing even on a drizzly London evening. All in one venue I could have Turkish Mezze, Tapas, a Carne Asado Taco and to wash it down I had the choice of a Belgian Artisan Beer, A Small Batch G&T or a premium cocktail – and so much more.
The choice alone is unbelievable but marry this with the fantastic quality of the food and drink you have a formula that’s hard to beat. At Metropolitano Mercato there is a clear sustainability message, a concentration on championing locally sourced and sustainable produce, as well as a desire to educate guests on key social issues meaning there is more than just eating and drinking going on.
This is just one example of a growing number of venues across London that have multiple vendors all under one roof. Market Halls has sites in London Victoria, Fulham Broadway and soon Oxford Circus, BoxPark can be found in Shoreditch, Croydon and Wembley and if that’s not enough for you, there is Street Feast which has Dinerama in Shoreditch and sites in Lewisham, Canada Water and Canary Wharf.
It’s a trend not just constricted to London either, Digbeth Dining Club in Birmingham or Mackie Mayor in Manchester also provide quality food and drink from multiple vendors all under one roof.
I love these venues; they are places where friends can be catered for no matter how fussy or particular; enjoy and share interesting food and drink in an atmosphere that has an almost carnival feel.
Point of difference
The success of these venues is fascinating from an operational perspective when you consider the models they use and also what their success says about how consumer habits are changing the way we eat and drink out.
We continually hear that customers these days are increasingly fickle, always on the search for something new and no longer loyal to brands as they were previously. This trend has only been accelerated by the continual appearance of new and innovative operators in the market, offering greater choice.
This means that the eating and drinking out market has never been more exciting but also never more challenging for operators.
Venues such as Metropolitano Mercato, Dinerama and BoxPark, harness these two forces to drive their business forward. They offer the difference and intrigue that customers desire, along with incorporating new operators that might be potential competitors into their model.
This works in favour for consumers, as often these vendors are from the local area and bring strong sense of authenticity that we increasingly demand. It also provides that differentiated experience that consumers desire. No two visits have to be the same at these venues
According to Harris Interactive survey conducted last year, the ‘foodie’ demographic thought of street food as authentic (78%) and high quality (72%). This is the exact customer demographic these food markets are looking to tap into and shows the viability of these operations as street food is at the core of their offer. Research from last year also shows the street food trend to be in growth, forecasted to reach £1.2bn which is growth of almost 10% year-on-year.
For the owners and operators of the venues it also seems like the perfect antidote to the current challenges of the market. Firstly, in terms of finding a site, they are not situating themselves in prime real estate as a restaurant or pub would traditionally look to do. Street Feast’s site in Lewisham was previously a disused market, Market Halls in Victoria was formerly the site of nightclub Pacha that closed its doors in 2014. This (in theory) means that rents are lower than other sites and also these operators can point to rejuvenating the communities they enter and are genuine exponents of urban renewal.
For me, what is most important with these venues is the tremendous atmosphere they create and foster. All of them have a real sense of occasion, a communal atmosphere and connection with their guests. They are venues that create real moments to remember and savour. Who can forget the scenes at BoxPark Croydon during last summer’s World Cup, where hundreds of pints of beer flew into the air in celebration of an England goal?
Yes, these markets sell excellent food and drink but, as the very best venues always do, they offer so much more than that.