Street foods play into several current foodservice trends. Click here to learn how menuing these affordable and convenient snack foods can boost sales and increase customer satisfaction.
Mexicans call them antojitos. Koreans have gilgeori eumsik. Sri Lankans have short eats and the Japanese have yatai. In the United States, we refer to it as street food.
Humans have had street food since the dawn of civilization. The ancient Greeks sold fried fish, while the Aztecs peddled tamales.1 Iconic American street snacks include pizza, hot dogs and funnel cake.
More recently, the street food game has become more elevated. Restaurants are cashing in on this age-old dining trend by offering robust, stand-alone street food menus that showcase new, exciting flavors in an approachable format. For operators looking to expand (or create) street food menus, think quality, not quantity. Start with six to 10 carefully chosen items that can be prepared and served quickly, consistently and affordably.2
Street food is all about convenience. Ideally, these menu items should be portable and able to be eaten quickly and easily with hands or minimal flatware. Think noodles, dumplings and empanadas, which can be given a protein boost with premium chicken and turkey.
Street food plays perfectly into the all-day snacking trend. According to Technomic’s 2018 Snacking Occasion Consumer Trend Report, 80 percent of consumers say they snack at least once a day and 57 percent say they snack twice or more per day.3 Millennial and Gen Z diners—a coveted demographic for restaurant operators—are the most likely to snack, and they are very experimental when it comes to street food. Having grown up in a world where global connectivity is the norm, they’ve watched cooking shows since they were babies, traveled the world via bloggers and social media, and are not afraid to try new foods.
This makes for more sophisticated palates at younger ages, which plays into another trend: global flavors.4 For millennials and Gen Z, no flavor pairing or experiential dish is too extreme or off limits.
Younger diners are also concerned with menu transparency and sourcing, an opportunity for restaurateurs to meet their desire for healthy menu options with items like chicken and turkey raised with a high standard of animal care and No Antibiotics Ever. Popular street food dishes from around the world include Taiwanese fried chicken, a comfort food with a kick of chili powder in the batter; Mexican chicken tinga; Turkish-style chicken kebobs; and jerk chicken, the ultimate Jamaican street snack.
Restaurants with open kitchens have an extra opportunity to showcase street food’s origins. Some restaurants are even offering a cart experience in lounges or bar areas to recreate a busy street vibe with chefs putting on a show. Minimally processed foods like fresh chicken and turkey with premium attributes that can be cooked quickly in front of an audience are ideal ingredients for a street food menu. Chefs can pair protein-packed snacks with pickled or fermented foods to hit on another healthy trend.
Dishes prepared with fresh, nutritious ingredients in front of your eyes? You can’t get much more transparent than that. Operators can leverage the increasing popularity of street foods not only to increase their bottom lines, but to introduce customers to new flavors, ingredients, and experiences as well.
Content courtesy of Perdue Foodservice
1History of Street Food and Interesting Facts, 2019, http://www.historyoffastfood.com/fast-food-history/street-food-history-and-facts/
2Oches, Sam, “Back to the Streets,” QSR, 6/2014, https://www.qsrmagazine.com/menu-innovations/back-streets
3Cobe, Patricia, “As snacking rises, here’s how to lure snackers’ attention through the menu,” Restaurant Business, 4/24/2018, https://www.restaurantbusinessonline.com/food/snacking-rises-heres-how-lure-snackers-attention-through-menu
4Cobe, Patricia, “7 menu trends that took off in 2018,” Restaurant Business, 12/19/2018, https://www.restaurantbusinessonline.com/food/7-menu-trends-took-2018