Foodservice Design Agency - On Safari in Soho

Often in the world of foodservice marketing there is much talk of new concepts and exciting breakthrough ideas, but sadly little time to do more than note it as an interesting titbit and get back to work. Therefore when the M&C Report Food on the Go conference offered the option to tag on a ‘safari’ (or ‘study tour’) around Soho, I thought – mmm, why not?
As the leading foodservice agency it’s important for us to keep in touch with the real world of foodservice and with food on the go driving OOH growth this dynamic sector is certainly worth a closer look.

So after a day of top-notch speakers and discussion around food on the go it was time to take to the pavement and see what was actually going on around us. Led by Simon from Allegra Foodservice we set-off in true school trip style to look at, and on occasion sample, the delights of foodie Soho…

First on our itinerary was…

apostrōphe – With 20 sites across London it offers a solid lunch offer focused around the classic sandwich / soup menu. So why stop here when as good as it is, apostrophe doesn’t exactly break any new ground? Well, the interesting thing about this high street concept is that it is actually run by contract caterer CH & Co., which shows how all our vertical market maps are slowly blurring at the edges!

Carbon – Then it was onto one of the hippest kebab shops ever! However, to describe it as such really doesn’t do it justice. With its funky styling and diverse menu it is so much more than your average charcoal grill. But a charcoal grill it is, if a little more ‘sophist’. Little wonder when you discover that this concept was set-up by a former exec chef from The Ivy (no less!). With fresh ingredients sourced daily the smell alone in the small corner site on Brewer Street is reason enough to give it a try.

Wrapchic – Wraps have been around for some time, indeed Jellybean was involved in the original branding for the Wrapid concept many years ago. But Wrapchic is quite different; an innovative concept fusing freshly prepared Mexican and Indian food, it started off in Birmingham’s city centre offering a ‘build your own’ offer allowing consumers to create or ‘personalise’ their wrap. Currently they have eight locations in the UK, with two in London, and although we didn’t get to try any they did look great.

Pure – When it comes to presentation few do it better than Pure. With a commitment to fresh, everything is made on-site to a seasonal menu, with a strapline of ‘made for you’ which underpins all they do. They specialise in salads and flatbreads (which they bake themselves) and go to great lengths to offer full nutritional information. Currently they have seven locations across London and are certainly worth a try next time you’re passing.

Itsu – Hardly a new face on the high street, Itsu was created by Pret founder Julian Metcalf and now has 50 sites across London. With health and wellbeing at its core and a positioning of ‘eat beautiful’, Itsu is a successful example of truly healthy food on the go and shows the growing acceptance of Japanese food into the mainstream.

CRUSSH – An import from California, Crussh has 25 stores across London and has recently re-position the brand with new store design and branding (although the one we found ourselves in was in the older style). Originally a juice bar it has become much more over time and offers a wide selection of healthy food on the go including an £8 smoothie! (mmm….).

Hummus Bros – Middle Eastern cuisine is definitely far more mainstream than ever, with quinoa taking over from couscous and humus a permanent fixture in the fridges of the middle class. So this concept is very much on-trend as it offers humus with a variety of toppings. As consumers look to reduce their meat consumption and some move to flexitarian diets, Hummus Bros is well positioned in the market and offers an authenticity others fail to achieve. Few may know what a ‘Levantine Kitchen’ is, but it is authentic and sounds great (FYI Levantine – describes the people of Western European origin, whose long term domicile was in the Eastern Mediterranean, within the former boundaries of the Ottoman Empire).  We were lucky enough to hear from the founder and get to try some of the menu and I for one will be heading back next time I’m in the area for some tasty humus and ginger and lime lemonade! Top tip – for those with a food allergy the website has a filtering system which displays (as per the new legislation) all the allergens in their dishes so you can eat at ease.

bunnychow – The name rang a bell but I couldn’t place it, until we turned up and I saw the ‘Shake up your Wake-up’ Best Breakfast Award. Of course! – I’d seen bunnychow on Twitter and in the press, featuring its innovative bread ‘bucket’ (referred to as a bunny hence the name) which they had filled with a Full English to win the coveted award. This South African street food concept started out in Brixton market and has since moved into bricks and mortar in Wardour Street (its one-and-only site).
Its homespun street food charm runs across everything from the brown paper roll down menu boards to the informal warmth of the staff. We were treated to all of the outlet’s signature dishes including the award winning breakfast, all of which were delicious, although I would have to recommend the piri piri pork bunny which was amazing!! The day we visited was an exciting one for bunnychow and not because a load of suits trolled through and eat them out of house and home, but rather because it had just got its liquor licence and would be serving booze for the first time. Cocktails and bunnychow – it sounds like a winner to me and I look forward to going back soon! (I would also recommend the salted caramel chocolate which was amazing and free, as they wouldn’t let me pay for it – very kind and very tasty!)

Herman ze German – Well simply on name alone I liked the sound of this one! On Old Compton Street, it’s one of three in London and offers authentic German bratwurst (hotdogs) which are made in Germany and are gluten and lactose free. With chips and mayo and whopping great hotdogs it sits in stark contrast to the ultra-healthy concepts the tour started out with. But indulgence will always have a place in the market and these substantial dogs seem to have found their niche (where other hotdog concepts have risen and fallen) – possibly due to the authentic concept which has helped the brand stand out in the market.  There were samples for all, but having eaten my way around the safari I had to pass – I’ll have to head back another day with an empty stomach and give them a go as they looked fabulous.

Thanks to M&C Report and specifically Allegra Foodservice for a very interesting and tasty tour and for arming me with some top tips for the next time I find myself hungry on the streets of London!

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