Market Market Research……(aka Market Stall Espionage)

Brick Lane Market, London, EC1Firstly, my apologies for the title. I am, of course, referring to the wonderful task of checking out other markets and stall holders to get inspiration and ideas on layout, set-up and signage – all of which are extremely important in making a successful market stall. However, I cannot deny that the fact that my market research actually involves researching markets doesn’t amuse me!

Last weekend I set out on a solo undercover mission to Brick Lane for this exact purpose. It was a glorious, sunny day which meant I was entirely inconspicuous in my red sunglasses, milling nonchalant amongst the crowds of genuine market customers. I have been down this road many times before to shop and eat with friends on sunny days just like this one but this time it was a very different experience. What used to be a survey of what looked like lunch for the day had transformed into a calculating assessment of customer crowd size and then analysis of what factors contributed to this. A market food stall is now broken down into its presentation, how the stall holders behave, how the food is packaged and how this stall differentiates itself from others with similar products.

It seems to me that there must be a balance between the quantity of food on show and how the final product is presented. The stalls that looked the busiest had large vats, gastros or giant chunks of meat on display wafting out tantalising aromas and more than one stall holder, all of whom look very busy either serving customers or working on the prep. This creates a feeling that they are experienced and well-established in what they do and, in turn, I think this breeds confidence in the customer.

Another advantage of grabbing the customers eye (and nose) initially is that they linger at the stall for longer which encourages other potential customers to see what all the fuss is about. We are curious and social animals so where there are crowds we naturally want to know what our fellow humans are so interested in – “it must be something great – I don’t want to miss out”.

Surprisingly, the branding and signage in the indoor market was rather minimal. This may suggest that it is not necessary, although I do not believe that to be true. It could also be that these market traders already have an established café or restaurant somewhere else and do not feel the need to shout about it, or, the market stall is actually the end goal.

For me, I see the humble market stall as a stepping stone to expanding the brand across the city whilst honing the menu and making money to put towards a restaurant.

In summary, there seems to be three main ways to create an attractive market stall:

1. Have generous quantities of the food you are selling on display.

2. Make sure something is hot and steaming.

3. Create a buzz with busy staff.

I’m sure I will be adding to this list as I continue to learn and grow with Maize Blaze but, for now, I must park the car and run down to Camden Lock Market to get my stall allocation for the day.

A sunny Good Friday……should be great!

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