InKERBator Batch No.6 on graduation day
There’s been an explosion in our industry this year. We’ve seen more markets open up around London than ever (from outdoor kerbs to indoor food spaces); a record number of traders start-up food businesses (490 new businesses applied to join our inKERBator programme and 58 graduated through it); a huge growth in flavours, from Chinese hole-in-the-wall jian bing to Yunnan Douhua Mixian 豆花米线 rice noodles to vegan khao suey (see our key dishes of 2018); and ultimately, more opportunities for our traders who sold close to £12m worth of street food across KERB markets and events in 2018.
Yes, the London street food scene is more competitive than it was six years ago when we started; the barriers to entry are higher (see Pizza Pilgrims when they first started trading with us in 2012 vs. inKERBator, Rice Guys in 2018) but it’s becoming more feasible to make a sustainable business out of selling food on the streets. Or as KERB’s Ian Dodds says “It’s easier to make money but harder to be famous”.
We’ve also seen a huge shift in what ‘street food’ means. Traders are starting out in fixed sites without even having traded on the streets (Boxpark); established restaurants are moving into street food style food courts (Koya and Roti King in Market Halls Victoria); and we’ve seen some of our inKERBators grow from new businesses to owners of multiple fixed sites and Deliveroo successes in less than a year – Zephyr at Peckham Levels, Lords of Poke at Camden, Biff’s Jack Shack at Boxpark to name a few.
In fact, we’ve seen 20 of our traders open their first bricks & mortar in 2018 :
There’s a constant stream of fresh talent coming onto the streets as the older guard move on and up – and they’re young too, with 85% of business owners coming through our inKERBator under 30. A powerful ecosystem has developed and our main goal heading into next year is to nurture this ecosystem through our KERB Workshops, inKERBator, markets, events and business support.
“At KERB, we’ve built a platform to help newly hatched food businesses reach their potential. We’ve got lots of plans for the next few years but in the short term, our goal is to make the inKERBator programme the UK’s most innovative food business incubator!” (Ollie Hunter, KERB Head of Development).
Street food is disrupting the catering world. KERB Caters are curating three-course ‘street food sit down dinners’ and ‘street food canapés’. From a 3000 person all vegan offering for the LUSH Summit at Old Billingsgate (with 100% compostable and biodegradable service wear), to catering a Christmas party for 800 inside the Natural History Museum, we’re seeing a hunger from more traditional venues to bring street food under their roofs and with it, a chance for our traders to continue to find innovative ways to serve their specialist menus.
The Beefsteaks’ canapés for a KERB Caters wedding: hot-smoked salmon rillettes with sourdough toast; steak tartare on Scandinavian crispbread; whipped feta and beetroot macarons.
This past year, KERB Caters have turned up the flavour in Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London, Somerset House, Natural History Museum (below) and more. What are we going to be seeing more of next year?“More theatre, more interaction with traders, from both a food and content collaboration perspective,” (Alana Buckley, Head of Events at KERB).
So, is it “too late” to get into street food? Is it harder to make it? Not likely. It’s richer than ever as the industry continues to evolve. There’s more ways in, but the game’s got fiercer. The main message to take heed of from the speakers at 2018’s workshops? “Start a business with an end goal in mind”.
A restaurant isn’t for everyone; some people want to stay on the streets, e.g. Lily Bovey at Stakehaus, (“I’m not a chef; I’m a street cook”) and Angus Denoon (always moving, chasing the sensation seekers with his mind-blowing Kolkata jhal muri), whereas new traders like Carcass are hungry for a fixed site already, and Yun are looking at taking on the pre-ordering system. As long as we have this diverse injection of traders feeding into the London street food scene and hungry to make it, keeping that same energy will continue! Here’s to it and what lies ahead for all this talent and growth in 2019.
Ending on a quote from KERB Founder, Petra Barran:
“STARTED ON THE KERB, NOW WE’RE HERE! As our traders have grown and accelerated, so have we. This is the point, to keep it moving. The ones who stand still are dead inside…this city waits for no man. What keeps us anchored has its clue in the name…KERB. It’s our root, our leveller, our connection to all that’s vital in London. If we can take a bit of that and use it as a good strong launchpad – for our traders and for us – then that’s great.”
Have a wonderful Christmas everybody. EAT LOTS, and see you back on the kerb on 3rd Jan at KERB Gherkin.