Why street food needs technology
StreetDots has made it easy for London street food traders to book pitches since 2014: open the Trade Smart app, choose from over 40 locations, select a date and press a button: pitch booked, that’s it. Now it is expanding its network across the UK and is in talks with landowners in major cities to open over 150 street trading spaces in the next year.
Uptake in Manchester, Leeds and Glasgow has shown mobile caterers nationwide are desperate for the industry to enter the digital age. Every city we visit has a unique street food scene, but they have one thing in common: finding and booking a pitch is time consuming and difficult. We created Trade Smart to solve this, in the age of smartphones no one should be form filling just to get out there and sell.
Transport, travel and retail have been transformed by the digital age, yet mobile catering has been relatively untouched. We believe good technology should not bulldoze a sector, it should complement, streamline, and remove barriers to entry.
The StreetDots platform, for example, is designed to help both established traders and those that are starting out, such as Mary and Joseph Yoon, the founders of Kokodoo. The husband and wife team launched the street food business in October 2016 after spotting a gap in the market for premium Asian street food.
However, the search for a perfect pitch for their beautifully converted Citroen H Van proved frustrating.
“With most markets I kept calling up, got stuck on a waiting list and told to keep checking”, says Joseph.
He stumbled upon StreetDots after spying its ever changing caravan of food trucks on Broadgate Circle in the heart of London’s financial district – the perfect market for Kokodoo’s high end dishes. The discovery that he could book it online was a revelation.
“Booking is done by smartphone, you can see everything in one place and book instantly,’ Joseph says.
After becoming a firm favourite with City workers at Broadgate Circle, Kokodoo became a StreetDots regular, touring its two trucks around StreetDots’ London network.
While technology can take care of business admin involved in mobile catering, traders must also consider what channels and apps their customers are using.
Today’s consumers expect every business, no matter how small, to have digital presence. This is perhaps even more pertinent to street food, not known for its lack of presence on Instagram! Yet it takes some organisation to Tweet, between trips to the market and food prep.
This is why we created ‘StreetDots’ the consumer facing sister app to Trade Smart. Customers use it to check out who’s cooking on their nearest street dot and view photos and menus.
As with other sectors, the street food businesses that will prosper will be those that can automate ‘everything but the food’. This will give them time to concentrate on the authenticity and provenance of their cuisine - the one element of the street food scene that can never be replaced by a robot.