“This is potentially life changing”: the campaign supporting street food

By BigHospitality

- Last updated on GMT

Image: Jake Davis
Image: Jake Davis

Related tags: Street food, Streets Ahead, Food Hall, KERB, Mccain foodservice

A new Streets Ahead initiative will be a boost for participants and the street food sector in general, according to its partners.

McCain Foodservice Solutions and street food membership organisation KERB have partnered to create Streets Ahead​, an initiative that will give people from less-advantaged backgrounds the opportunity to bring their food business idea to life.

The campaign, which launches this month, is working with a number of charities that will put forward candidates to join the KERB classroom, an online food start-up course which helps take food business ideas out of people’s heads and make them a reality, with 45 people going on to participate an immersion day. Following that, 10 successful candidates will each receive an investment from McCain Foodservice Solutions of up to £10,000 to set up their new street food businesses - and one day have the opportunity to trade at a KERB market.

Gavin Dunn, managing director for social enterprise at KERB, and Lucy Vincent, founder, and chief executive at Food Behind Bars, discuss why the initiative is not just beneficial for those involved, but for the street food sector as a whole.

How did KERB get involved with Streets Ahead?

Gavin Dunn:​ We’ve always been heavily involved in the incubation and acceleration of independent food businesses. As part of the early stage of that incubator process, we have offered KERB classroom, an online course that would-be food entrepreneurs can access in their spare time and learn the basics on how to start a food business. Street food has always been a low barrier to entry into owning your own business and so that, combined with our newly launched social enterprise, meant it felt like the perfect time to work with McCain Foodservice Solutions on the Streets Ahead programme. With their sponsorship, we are offering KERB classroom for free to people who need it the most - through new and existing partnerships with our charity partners to give people training and insight into how to run their own food business.

How long does the classroom process take?

GD:​ It’s roughly an eight-week course, but for the super keenos it could be three weeks and for those who want to take their time and dip in and out it can be longer – there’s no prescribed time. There are eight different modules designed to be worked through weekly across all sections and areas of running your own food business, from the original concept and USP through to areas such as ops, equipment, finance, HR, and sustainability.

There’s more to Streets Ahead than online learning though…

GD:​ Yes. What’s really exciting about the Streets Ahead programme is that we also have a one-day workshop for those who are most engaged. They will be invited to KERB’s flagship street food hall, Seven Dials Market to immerse themselves in the industry, speak to some of the traders, have a session with me and the rest of the KERB team about what it takes to run a street food business and allow them to really get that face-to-face connection. Following that day, there’s the potential for up to 10 of the participants to access up to £10,000 of funding each, to cover the start-up costs for their own street food business. For me, that is a really important element of the initiative - giving them the opportunity to turn their street food dreams into a reality and hit the kerb.

Food Behind Bars is one of the partner charities. Tell us about the work that it does

Lucy Vincent:​ We work in prisons across England and Wales and our projects are food orientated. We work with prison kitchens to try and improve the quality of food served and also do a lot of food education.

Why did you want to be involved with Streets Ahead?

LV:​ We ran a street food pilot in March in HMP Brixton off the back of meeting a lot of individuals in prison who were very interested in starting their own street food businesses. It was a one-month pilot course that involved people who had an idea for their own street food business going through industry sessions, writing a business plan and pitching it to some of London’s biggest food markets at the end. It showed me how logistically hard it is to do something like this in a prison environment – particularly with limited IT access - so Streets Ahead, where they can work on it in their own time and still get expert advice, is really important. We are really excited to be involved.

How do you see Streets Ahead helping those with whom you deal every day?

LV:​  Often there is no light at the end of the tunnel for people in prison. Most people are coming out and starting completely from scratch. The way we see Streets Ahead working is that we’d like to start people off while they are still in prison and approaching the end of their sentence so that when they come out, they are ready to go onto the next stage. There’s a real lack of business and entrepreneurial type courses in prison, often education is one-size-fits-all and is quite outdated and so there’s a real need for something like this.
GD:​ A lot of these people have had obstacles put in front of them all their lives and may have felt they were on the fringes of society. Running your own business removes those obstacles. This is potentially life changing for them.

Why is street food such a suitable sector for this kind of initiative?

LV:​ There’s a real drive in prisons at the moment to get people into work and the hospitality industry needs workers, so it’s almost seen as a no-brainer. But many individuals leaving prisoner are simply not suited to going into a 60-hour week job in a tough kitchen environment. Often the circumstances they’re coming out into don’t support that environment or they are mentally not in the right space to do that kind of work. Prisons often reflect what’s going on in the rest of society, and more and more, we have been finding that people want to explore alternative employment opportunities, such as starting their own business. A lot of people we meet might already have some catering experience but are also quite business minded and entrepreneurial – it’s about channeling that entrepreneurial spirit in the right way. The public facing aspect is also attractive. A lot of these people want to give back to the communities they might have taken away from, even if it just means serving some nice food and interacting with the public. People also like the idea of having a van and going all over the place; going to Glastonbury is very attractive.
GD:​ Going to large-scale events is one of the main reasons most of our members set up their food businesses and join the KERB community.

How do you see Streets Ahead helping the street food sector?

GD:​ Streets Ahead will really ensure authenticity and diversity across the street food ecosystem and enable us to engage with parts of society that we have previously overlooked. It really opens up the diversity of our offer down the line - and will bring life into the ecosystem. There is a real risk of the food industry, including street food, becoming a bit homogeneous. My worst fear is that you go down to a local street food market and it feels just like a high street - with no independent businesses there. This programme will not only help the individuals, but the whole street food scene.

What are you hoping to see come out of the Streets Ahead initiative?

GD:​ It’s going to take a lot of time and support, but I’d love to see a Streets Ahead KERB street food market one day. Let’s shoot for that!

Related topics: Street Food

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