Word of mouth gets operators off the street
16 July, 2012
Generating great word of mouth is the key to making it work in street food, according to an Observer interview with Yianni Papoutsis and Scott Collins of Meat Wagon, one of the most hyped and successful mobile operators of recent years.
Meat Wagon launched in early 2009 as a street burger van but grew into a pop-up residency at a New Cross in 2011 and has since set up two permanent spots—Meat Liquor off Oxford Street and Meat Market in Covent Garden.
Collins said finding the right location was the trigger to spreading the word. “Going to where the foodies already are is just a good move all round—if they don’t have to travel far they’re more likely to keep coming back, and you can get friendly with familiar faces—that’s how word of mouth spreads and that, with street food is important, because there is so much out there. You need to become a destination.”
Other secrets of success include good relationships with suppliers. Papoutsis said: “I have worked with the same meat and bun suppliers since the first day I opened the hatch on the Meat Wagon van. The key is not to just be a customer… they nurtured me when I was only buying a couple of kilos of meat, and were very patient with my lack of experience. Now I show that loyalty back.”
A business brain is vital too—Collins, who runs several pubs in south east London, joined Papoutsis to handle the numbers side when Meat Wagon took up its residency—and investment helps. “Friends, family, supporters—if they can each help a little bit, it adds up. Having financial reserves is often the only thing in the way of a street food business expanding—if you can’t keep up with the demand, you lose out.”
For the full story, see How to make money from street food.