Street food a 'no-brainer' for traditional wet-led pubs

By Daniel Woolfson

- Last updated on GMT

Rob Star: "You get much better products and, ultimately, that’s what’s going to bring people back to your venue"
Rob Star: "You get much better products and, ultimately, that’s what’s going to bring people back to your venue"

Related tags: Street food, Public house, Inn

Wet-led pubs with no resources to invest in a traditional food offer can up their game by working with street food traders, a leading London operator has urged.

Traders who are personally invested in their brands and savvy with social media can significantly increase a pub's potential pool of customers and attract repeat custom, according to Rob Star, director of four-site pub group Electric Star.

He told the Publican's Morning Advertiser​ (PMA​): "For me, street food is the perfect accompaniment for a more wet-led venue because of the economics of putting a chef in place – maybe having someone washing up or assisting them or buying the stock – can be very costly if you're not taking £5,000 to £7,000 a week in food trade."

Invested in the business

Star, owner of the Star of Kings in King's Cross, the Jackdaw and Star in Homerton, the Star of Bethnal Green and the Star in Hackney Downs, continued: "It's a no-brainer. Food accounts for about 20% of our sales, which is enough for a food operator to make decent money every week.

"We can afford to give away our kitchen to someone because we're not making 50% of our revenue through food and the traders pay themselves from the revenue they create.

"You get much better products and, ultimately, that's what's going to bring people back to your venue. You don't always get that with a traditional chef. Whoever is in the kitchen, they're not just being paid to make pizzas or burgers, you are getting someone who is invested in the business.

"It's their brand, it's their product and they care about it."

The transitory nature of street food residencies also allows pub operators to switch their food offer before it gets stale and can keep customers interested, he said, adding that choosing traders with a solid social media presence had helped expand his pubs' customer base.

"One of the things that we do look for when choosing a trader we want to work with is their social media reach. If they're reaching another seven or eight thousand people through Twitter that we're not in contact with, then it's only going to be good for business."

Important trend

Speaking at the PMA500 conference last month, founder of British Street Food and the British Street Food Awards Richard Johnson said street food should be considered the most important trend to happen in food for years.

He said: "It's very simple – traders need somewhere to go and they love pubs. And an awful lot of pubs don't have the time, don't have the inclination or don't have the money to develop any kind of menu beyond nuts and crisps."

British Street Food and Enterprise Inns recently launched a new app, called British Street Food Pub Takeover, billed as 'Tinder for licensees'​, which enables participating pubs to connect directly with vendors and negotiate pre-residency terms.

The app is currently available for Enterprise Inns licensees only, but Johnson told the PMA ​he plans for it to be extended further into the trade in future.

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