The rise of street food stalls: Are they taking over sit-down dining experiences?

Notably, the rise of street food stalls has evolved from outdoor markets since the outbreak of Covid19. 

What was once considered a hipsters craze, street food and pop-ups have grown significantly quicker than the fast food market. As of 2018, the street food market consists of 2,000 businesses, equating to a value of £1.2 billion. But what’s changed?

In this blog, we uncover the rise of street food stalls and pop-up experiences and understand if this will be the new normal of restaurant dining moving forward.

The rise in street food and pop-up dining 

For the experiential diner searching for something unusual when it comes to the eating experience, pop-up stalls and street food are extremely versatile in their offerings. Whether it’s a unique setting, a personal encounter with the chef, or a creative menu or theme, pop-ups have the advantage of allowing for a new level of creativity and freedom that traditional restaurants don’t always offer.

There’s nothing better than enjoying a hot dog straight from your hands for many people. Complete with the smell of frying onions and a variety of flavours, the rise in street food stalls boils down to the unique offerings, limited time frames, and authentic experiences.

According to, 48% of consumers have admitted to prioritising an authentic dining experience over the price of the food. What appears to appeal the most is the widest possible range of countries and cultures. Typically for the taste bud travellers, sampling the different foods at mobile events offers a much more authentic dining experience than many high street restaurants.

The true novelty of pop-ups is the idea that they’re not permanent, so this creates a sense of urgency among consumers to try the food whilst it’s available to them. Pop-ups are a great option for festivals, one-time events, and chefs or restaurateurs who want to ‘test the waters’ for a new concept.

The reason for the rise 

It’s no secret that Covid-19 has played a role in the rise of street food stalls and pop-ups. During the pandemic, many small businesses turned to pop-ups and delivery as a means of creating a living whilst indoor dining was restricted. Knowing there was popularity around pop-up dining at outdoor markets, many saw the opportunity to flourish in the pandemic. Not only this, but the idea of outdoor dining offered a sense of safety with social distancing being easier to maintain outdoors.

These pop-ups specifically attract the foodies who dine out more frequently in search of refreshing eating experiences. Most pop-up events are low-key affairs that are only discovered via invitation or word of mouth, giving the event a sense of exclusivity and therefore resulting in the gradual rise of street food stalls and pop-ups.

Additionally, many people are drawn to the idea of getting their hands on food that is freshly prepared in front of them. Not only this, but they simultaneously support small businesses and learn about other cuisines in their purest form by eating street food. Trying different foods and roaming among pop-ups and stalls with friends and family is a great way to spend a day, which ultimately offers so much more than any restaurant could.

A trend or here to stay?

Albeit there is a rise in street food stalls and pop-up dining, will this remain a trend or will it gradually transform the restaurant experience for good?

With a recorded 82% growth in the industry following a survey from Eventbrite, it is clear that street food could soon fase out as a trend and become part of UK culture. Many workers can now buy their lunch at street food carts and eat something healthy, affordable, and unique. There are numerous food trends, but the speed with which food is prepared is something that restaurants just cannot match. Sitting down to eat can take up to two hours of your day, whereas street food is a quick alternative that provides both authenticity and a sense of community.

Considering the rise of street food stalls and pop-up markets is only growing, it’s difficult to see a future without them functioning as just a trend. As things progress forward, many chain restaurants could look towards a pop-up dining offering to ensure their consumers can enjoy both a sit-down dining experience and a street food one as well.

Is there still an appetite for sit-down dining?

Whilst some restaurants offer a variety of food, it’s not unusual for mainstream chains to offer generic dishes for the customers that prefer to play it safe with their food choices.

The rise of the street food experience isn’t for everyone as a lot of consumers look forward to relaxed sit-down dining where they can browse the menus, enjoy the food from a plate, and have quality time with friends and family at their own leisure. As a result of this, there is still a strong desire for restaurant dining. Soon after the Covid-19 regulations began to relax, restaurants were flooded with bookings as people had missed the interactions and experiences that restaurant dining offers.

Although street food dining is more accessible and casual, there is a gradual increase in independent and unique restaurants offering something more exclusive to their diners. For example, restaurants such as Miyako Teppanyaki have live cooking where you can watch the chefs cook your meal before your eyes. Other establishments such as Gaucho, Adam’s, and Marco Pierre White offer Michelin star ratings or sit-down meals in decadent surroundings with stunning views and sensational service. Some of these factors can be much more valuable than the convenience of street food and offer refreshing new experiences than regular high street restaurants.

A restaurant experience with a side of street food stalls 

It is possible that as consumers, we can enjoy a healthy balance of both restaurants and street food stalls. Trying to imagine the food industry with no sit-down dining would be almost impossible as it is enjoyed by so many.

Respectively, both experiences offer something different and although the rise of street food stalls and pop-ups can never take over the traditional sit-down dining at a restaurant, they’re definitely here to stay.

Transforming a takeaway into an experience 

Discover how The Wigmore launched a restaurant to enhance its customer experience.

Find out more

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