Entrepreneurs out of the box: Street food in Brighton

Posted on Feb 25th, 2014 | News and opinion

The street food revolution has come to Brighton and it seems there is no end to the culinary schmoozing, with ever more dribble-worthy vendors popping up to expand the waist-line.

Street food is a fantastic path to entrepreneurship – it allows passionate foodies, bakers and chefs a chance to build a brand without having to pay the hiked-up fees for a cafe or restaurant space in an expensive British city. The cost of setting up a street food business depends on what you intend to sell and where you wish to sell it but can vary between £5,000 and up to £20,000, a relatively small amount when compared to the high costs of leasing a space in central Brighton. Furthermore, the amount of units available here currently stands at around 5.4% compared to the national average of 14.1% – having your own portable space takes you out of the highly competitive real estate game.

Never to pass up an opportunity to stuff our faces, we have happily munched our way to five of our favourite street food startups in Brighton. It was a hard task, as there are so many of them and they’re all pretty fab.

The Troll’s Pantry

The Troll’s Pantry started as a street food venture, operating out of a van around Brighton and Hove, before eventually settling at the Wood Recycling Store on Circus Street and later branching out to the Hobgoblin Pub and Street Diner in Brighthelm Gardens.

The Troll’s mission is to ‘provide affordable, ethically sourced fast food using the finest quality ingredients made with love and passion’. He’s not kidding either – when I went to catch up with Paul Clark, the founder of Troll’s Pantry, last summer he was busy foraging for ingredients in the Sussex countryside. His culinary science is reflected in the ever-evolving menu and flavour combinations, which have accrued the startup venture a loyal following over the years.

Paul told us:

“I started The Troll’s Pantry because I wanted to showcase local, ethically sourced produce in what would normally be regarded as junk food. I don’t believe quality, high welfare and organic produce should just be for the middle classes or pretentious fine dining establishments, but should be accessible to everyone.”

Street Diner

This is cheating a little but I couldn’t write a piece about street food without giving these lovely ladypreneurs a shout out. Christina and Kate started the The Street Diner last April and it has since become a massive success, dominating the gardens of the Brighthelm centre on Queen’s road every Friday lunchtime come rain or shine. What’s more, it only costs each vendor £30 a week to sell there.

We spoke to Christina and Kate who told us:

“Street food enables people to make a real connection with the food they’re eating, because it’s being cooked right there in front of them. Every sense is ambushed – and the enjoyment is instant.”

The duo bring an array of different food vendors to the area who in turn attract a gaggle of hungry Brightonians looking for a little bit of yum. There is a real feeling of community down at the diner, where food from around the world is prepared al fresco and served in generous portions for a reasonable price. The Street Diner was also featured in Elle Magazine’s ‘five of the best UK street food markets’ of 2014.

Dead Good Burrito

Dead Good Burrito have popped up all over Brighton and Hove but they don’t just limit themselves to this illustrious city; their 2014 diary is full of food festivals all across the south coast and they appear to be doing exceptionally well for themselves. The concept is simple – give the public very good quality burritos and they will always come back for more.

The recognisable trailer has been designed to help them deliver food as fast as possible, while still maintaining the high standard on which they have built their reputation. All of their ingredients are locally sourced and fair trade where possible and their signature salsas and guacamole are made fresh on the day – spotting these guys at a food fair always incites a squeal of excitement.

AJ’s catering van

AJ’s catering van is a relatively new venture that has quickly become a hotspot for foodies and workmen alike. Situated in the wholesale fruit and veg market on Crowhurst Road, AJ’s offers a healthier take on traditional fast food. The venture was started by Julia Dickens, an ex tutor and business partner Andy McGlennon, who trained as a chef at the Savoy Hotel on the Strand.

Julia Dickens credits the changing market of “healthy eating and people on diets” to the success of the business, which offers more freshly prepared, veg-based products than fried foods. The business partners gave up their full-time careers in favour of becoming part of Brighton’s street food revolution, both have said they wish they had done it sooner.

Honeycomb Cakes

To finish up this culinary adventure, Honeycomb Cakes offers sweet delights using only local, organic and fairtrade ingredients. For those gluten-phobes, as many here at Crunch claim to be, they also have delicious gluten-free options. Rebecca at Honeycomb cakes has been a full-time cake maker for almost two years and makes her living selling cakes at the Street Diner and taking private orders for weddings and birthdays.

Rebecca told us:

“The street food scene in Brighton gives people the chance to enjoy amazing food cooked by people who are passionate about what they do and in most cases, passionate about using local ingredients. It also gives traders who can’t afford Brighton’s premium commercial rents the ability to share their food.”

Street food is to the catering industry what flexible working is to offices. It moves away from the traditional confines of cafes and restaurants and gives food-entrepreneurs the freedom to experiment with different approaches to dishes, as well as the chance to form a community of vendors where different cultures, lifestyles and passions can come together. Street food also has a culture of using locally sourced, fair trade produce and your meal is more often than not served straight to you by the person who made it – this helps provide a unique connection that foodies alike can’t fail to appreciate.

You can find out more about the costs of setting up a street food business and relevant licenses here.

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Written by Sophie Turton

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