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Is Street Food Good For Britain Or Ruining The Restaurant Scene?

by - Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Fast, cheap and often unhealthy, the term 'street food' long conjured up images of burger stands catering to drunken, rowdy football fans or gleeful festivalgoers. From slimy kebabs on a Friday night to oily donuts at the fair, this food was filling but far from sophisticated. However, head to any market now and you'll notice that the street food scene has recently undergone a radical transformation. Gone is the greasy grub and in its place is a range of exotic flavours and dishes from around the world, fit to thrill the palate of any foodie.

The recession saw the number of jobs available in the already competitive restaurant industry decline further, and it was this that led quick-thinking cooks to revolutionise the game by creating pop-up restaurants and stylish mobile units. Combining the frantic and bustling atmosphere of busy city streets with varied and high quality produce has proved to be a winning formula. One article estimated that a street food vendor could start their business with £3,000 and earn up to £10,000 a day at a big event like a festival!

These entrepreneurial types still have to carve out a niche, meaning those fatty hot dogs and burgers have been replaced with a wide range of foods all crammed into one street fest. Punters can choose from Vietnamese or Thai cuisine lined up right next to fancy fish and chips, burritos and Sri Lankan dishes. Adventurous and creative, street food has become a cheaper way to enjoy fast and delicious snacks while expanding our taste buds' horizons.

However, there are some who feel these gourmet takeaways are nothing more than old-fashioned burger vans with a lick of paint. The food on offer might be cheaper than that available in restaurants, but it's often still expensive when you consider the cost of ingredients, and also comes with the added question of how and where to eat it. Critics of this new way of dining argue that freezing away in the rain on a grimy street with the noise and fumes of traffic cannot compare to settling down to a proper plate of food in the warmth and comfort of a restaurant. 

It may be splitting food fans, but there's no denying that this idea is going from strength to strength. Last year saw candidates on business show The Apprentice try their hand at selling gourmet street food in Edinburgh, and one of 2013's hopefuls, Tim Stillwell, started with burrito vans before opening restaurant Burrito Kitchen this year. His success suggests that far from ruining the restaurant scene, this new trend will complement it by encouraging us to keep trying different dishes.

There will always be a place for traditional restaurants, where the decor, seating and service all make for an extra special dining experience. However, there's also something exciting about wrapping up in this season's ladies' boots and a cosy winter coat to head out to a market for a taste of something new. Far from spurning people who are throwing caution to the wind and chasing their dreams, it's time to embrace this inventive approach to fast food. Find your sense of adventure, embrace the quirkiness and see street food as a fun and unique alternative to a sit-down restaurant meal.

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