I’m dropping everything and opening a shack! Raise your hand if you’ve never thought about it at least once in your life. And how can you blame us? The focus on food and nutrition, the extension of the term gourmet to traditional dishes (pizza and piadina above all) and the lower risk that you face by opening this type of activity compared to the classic restaurant are details that make the difference and can be the first step in a successful entrepreneurial story. Stalls, small takeaways, shacks and pickup trucks are all the rage in city centers and at festivals all over Italy.
And the data on street food confirm this. According to a research conducted by Unioncamere for the 2013-18 five-year period, activities of this type in the Business Register increased from 1,717 to 2,729. An expansion lead by young entrepreneurs and foreigners. In 22% of the cases, it was someone under 35 who started a street food business, while there were 327 non-Italian owners in 2018. Geographically, Rome and Milan take the lead with 181 activities followed by Turin and Lecce. Numbers that, according to Unioncamere, are destined to grow on the basis of the process of rediscovering typical local excellences, increasingly loved by tourists and locals alike.
An expansion lead by young entrepreneurs and foreigners. In 22% of cases, it was an under 35 year old who started a street food business
So, not just kebabs and fries: creativity is the first rule in street food. This is something that the folks at Trapizzino, for example, know well, having started from the Testaccio district of Rome, and conquering Milan and Florence before having their place in the sun inside Mercato Centrale in Turin (where they opened the second sales point in the city by adding also an offer of selected wines). The claim to fame, of course, the “trapizzino”: a pocket made with pizza dough stuffed with various toppings. All in an informal space that distrusts the standardization to which some food retail brands are subjected: "We are not a format, a chain: every one of our items is different, modeled on the spot, on a search based on suppliers, although our classics are also included", explained Paul Pansera, co-founder of the brand.
If you’re interested in the classic food truck imagery, though, there is Zibo and the story of Giulio Potestà and Alessandro Cattaneo. Having met in 2010 at Alma, Gualtiero Marchesi’s International School of Italian Cuisine, five years later the two friends started their food trucks combining haute cuisine and popular tradition. “The market today is saturated with offerings. We need an original idea, we need to know how to cook it to perfection, to evaluate costs and revenues well and to be convinced of it ", say the two.
Then there are those who manage to combine passion and digital disruption, as in the case of the Roman entrepreneur Alessandra Bognanni who, with Wok (acronym that stands for World Oriented Kitchen) launched in 2006 to offer the flavors of Thailand, has even reached the top on the Deliveroo platform by offering the Asian express cuisine for the first time in Italy. And today Asian ravioli shops, which offer the classic dumplings to eat “on the go”, are one of the major food entrepreneurial successes, from Milan to Rome.
Fusho, the brainchild of three young Chinese men, Jay Lin, Alex Pan, Sam Ye, along with twenty-five year old Milanese Davide Croatto, is based on the fusion between Mexican and Japanese. The four guys have already opened their third sales point in the city of Milan since the first opening in 2017 in Via Paolo Sarpi in Milan, where they offer their delicious roll, a little bit sushi and a little bit burrito, stuffed with original ingredients. They also introduced important innovations, such as the QR code for fish, which allows you to trace the supply chain and the origin.
There's who relies on reinvented local products, who serves gourmet cuisine on a truck, who offers chinese food and who decides to mix japanese and mexican.
The big brands of organized restaurants, however, are also turning to street food, finding in this format the ideal solution to be present in locations that differ from the traditional restaurant. This is the case of the Löwengrube brand which, with its wagon, has won the latest Foodservice Award in the category “Theme restaurant” thanks to a recognizable offer (beer and hot dogs): "We closed 2018 with a record result: 13.5 million euros of turnover on the entire network, + 35% compared to 2017", said the managing director Pietro Nicastro. And this also goes for Tramé (winner in the "Panini" category), who exported the Venetian sandwich art beyond the Lagoon: "Our strength lies in knowing how to combine tradition and innovation starting from an almost obsessive search for raw materials", revealed Gianluca Balestra.
But not all that glitters is gold, not even if brushed with cooking oil. In fact, the Fipe (Italian Federation of Public Exercises) has cast itself against street food, launching an appeal for fair competition and quality. 80 prominent chefs such as Carlo Cracco, Claudio Sadler and Filippo Giordano lead the way. “Every day political choices favor sectors that actually administer food, without being subjected to the same rules that apply to catering and public establishments in general. We refer to operators in the agricultural sector, private clubs, the third sector, neighborhood shops, home restaurants, street food, etc. “, reads the release issued by the association in late May. A warning that, in a period of controversy over Sunday openings, could push for more restrictive legislation for street food innovators.