Street smart: the rise and rise of informal eating

By Coco Piras
Gone, it would seem, are the days of families sitting down together at the dining table every evening to eat dinner. Research suggests we don't do that very much at all - and those of us who do tend to sit down together in front of the telly, plate on our lap.
Dinner trends are evolving – and this applies to both eating out as well as in. Overall, there's been a shift away from formal dining to a far more casual dining experience, allowing for the rise of what you could call a street food lifestyle. Homewares retailer Oldrids and Downtown has been taking a closer look at what's happening on the dining scene. 

Formal v casual dining: the waiting's over
Restaurant dining has traditionally been fairly formal - a restaurant has almost always referred to an establishment where you go to sit at a table and enjoy a meal cooked for you with table service. 
A recent survey suggests 70 per cent of adults are frustrated with...wait for it... the aspect of waiting in a restaurant. Indeed when 18-34 year olds were asked about their biggest frustrations, 42 per cent cited waiting for food to arrive and 30 per cent said waiting for a table was a drag.
In recent years the shift has been towards a more casual dining experience.  We've all been influenced by the proliferation of now pretty good fast-food and take-away restaurants, and a formal or fine dining experience isn't people's number one choice when it comes to eating out. Restaurants offering buffet style food, street food and outdoor eating spaces are what we want, especially if we have kids in tow. 
What about cost?
According to a report by Trajectory, the affordability of eating out is major consideration for families. Chains such as Wetherspoons, Nandos and The Harvester offer casual, comfortable dining experiences that are moderately priced and tend to offer us a more relaxed atmosphere. Nandos, in particular, has been voted the UK's favourite restaurant chain on - proof that what we really want our restaurants to be is casual.
The rise of the pop-up restaurant
We've become a nation eager to try new experiences when it comes to food. A survey by Eventbrite of more than 2,000 people who've attended pop-up dining venues found 75 per cent of them believe a unique dining experience is worth paying extra for. And having looked at 40,000 plus pop-ups, Eventbrite found this is the fastest growing dining trend — recording 82 per cent growth over the past year. With 66 per cent of us Brits describing ourselves as passionate about food and drink, the UK is really has become a foodie nation.  Also, 74 per cent of people attending pop-up dining experiences say they like interacting with the chef and seeing their food cooked in front of them. With figures like this, could traditional formal dining now be a thing of the past? 

Food on the street
Street food used to mean grimy white vans selling chips and greasy burgers. Today's street food however has gone gourmet and it's international, taking influence from Asian countries, where everyone eats street, so to speak. Street food caters for every taste, whether you want Thai, Chinese or Indian, or juicy burgers or pulled pork baps. And younger people love it because it's like no other dining experience - there’s no dinner table, no fancy's quality casual - and it tastes even more delicious when you're eating together with friends at a music festival or market. 
We all seem to feel time is precious and sitting waiting for a meal in a formal restaurant is something fewer of us are prepared to do. We're the 'I want it and I want it now' generation when it comes to food, so no wonder quality street food vendors are doing such a roaring trade.