01 | Nov | 16

Hugh Thomas

On The Money

Good food – it costs money. That’s something we Brits, way behind the rest of the continent, are beginning to realise. Or are we?

In 2014, we were behind fourteen other European countries – the likes of Lithuania, Cyprus, and Greece – in how much each person spends on food. The same year, the average French person spent almost 50% more than we did. Sacre bleu.

Are there signs of that changing? Well, sort of. Last year, The Independent pointed out that upcoming generations – namely 16-24 year olds – are spending more of their earnings on food than any other age group. Albeit on ‘fast food’ – Henry Dimbleby said the figures were ‘depressing’.

Santa Maria’s Street Food Report however suggests the industry’s in mid-boon – 64% of street food patrons asked were happy with spending more than the national average (£5) on lunch.

Ask some of the UK’s traders, and you might get a different opinion. ‘There are still loads of s**** traders,’ says MyPie. ‘Buying prepared stuff and selling it for £5. And selling loads. We only survive due to our private catering.’

Unfortunately, we’ve heard it before – many other traders, despite their circumstances, will stick to their guns on prices. And so they should. Especially if they promise to put the best food on the table they can. ‘Honesty,’ says MyPie, ‘is the best policy.’

Making honest bucks on what you do can happen, says Sub Cult, but only if you pick your spots well enough. ‘It’s always about location, location, location. Horses for courses, essentially. We can’t get our margins on council markets so easy for example, but with farmers’ markets, Street Feast, and private [catering], we have no issue.’

As tough as competition is in London, you might expect that to have an effect on what you can charge. But look to the Midlands – where you could say traders’ elbows need to be just as sharp – and prices can be as high as they need (or don’t need) to be.

‘To be honest, I’ve never struggled,’ says Jeff of Big Daddies Diner. ‘My highest price dish is 7 quid, so not expensive. ‘However I have been at a couple of events in recent months where I feel the prices were hideous. £7.50 for two tacos with a palmful of filling seems excessive to me.’

Sure, we can all have better food on our streets if that’s what we want. But are we prepared to pay for it yet?