There’s been a lot of talk recently about the state of Sheffield’s independent food scene following the closure of a number of local indie restaurants including Platillos, Artisan and Fitzwilliam & West.
Restauranteurs have even gone as far as to meet and discuss how to tackle the problems they face, with a local councillor who attended admitting the council were “not doing enough to support businesses.”
Now the city’s spectacular urban festival Tramlines is facing criticism after a notable lack of Sheffield’s independent foodies in the main arenas in recent years.
During a twitter discussion on the subject following the popular event last summer, local farm outlet and ice cream maker Our Cow Molly told We Love Sheffield: “We love Tramlines but we’ve been totally priced out now.
"£1000 to be there plus 3 staff wages plus extra for power. [We'd be] probably £1500 down before a sale."
Our Cow Molly, who did used to be a feature at the festival, added: “Originally [Tramlines] had a real Sheffield feel: us, Fancie, PJ Taste; it's a shame for the Sheffield Economy.
“Last year the burgers, coffee, ice cream vans all came from one family in London.”
One Twitter user claimed that food in the main arena of Tramlines was also more expensive than local alternatives on other pitches, stating: “The food costs in Devonshire Green were astronomical. £7 for a Burrito, but on Fargate The Street Food Chef were selling them for £4.50.”
Local Mexican food outlet The Street Food Chef replied to explain the pricing difference saying: “We can only keep the prices down if we pay around £200 per day [for the pitch]. They [pitch holders within the main arena] paid anything up to £1000 per day.”
However, further valid considerations were added by the burrito-maker, who pointed out: “It’s also about the operation. Footfall means nothing if you can't serve quick.
“Huge vans can do a higher number per minute than a small unit that might offer better quality.”
It should also be noted that the festival has struggled with funding in recent years, notably resulting in the formerly free event charging for entry to its main areas.
With money being such an important issue for Tramlines to cover costs and deliver such a brilliant experience, achieving the best prices for the available pitches is important for organisers.
For example, over the past few years the ‘New Music Stage’ in Barkers Pool has been sponsored by international spicy-chicken chain Nando’s, providing much needed income, but is that at the expense of local outlets?
In a statement issued early last year discussing charging for entry to the event, Tramlines said: “Every year, we have charged retailers more for the food and drink concessions on the stages to contribute to our increasing costs.
“However, we have reached saturation point from this source of revenue and, in the case of the food units, we are expecting a decrease in income [in 2013] to respond to our food retailers’ universal feedback that the food rents were too high.”
Despite the promises that food rents would reduce in 2013 we didn’t see many of the local providers return to the main arenas. Will we see any back in 2014?
We’ll leave the last word to Sheffield cupcake eatery Fancy, who stated: “The first year was so good! Will never do it again.”
What are your thoughts? Would you like to see more local outlets at the heart of Tramlines? Add your comments below!