Remember the mad scene that surrounded the SJ Eats food-truck rally in downtown San Jose this past spring? Dozens of food trucks. Hundreds of people. Not enough space. It didn’t take a marketing genius to see that people are hungry for news tastes and the cool urban flavors of street food. Anyone looking to revitalize downtown’s food scene and economy at large would do well to consider how to channel such demand into a business.
Whether they know it or not, that appears to be what Food Social is up to. The Alameda-based startup is hosting an event at Motif Lounge in downtown San Jose from 5 to 9pm this Friday (Sept. 16). The event costs $5 in advance and $10 at the door. Once inside, visitors can sample locally cooked foods for $4-$8 a plate and see what’s cooking in the backyards and kitchens of Silicon Valley.
This is Food Social’s second event at Motif, and they plan to focus all their events in San Jose because of the potential they see here. “I think it’s big,” says co-founder Robert Feng. “It’s huge.”
In advance of the event, Food Social pitched would-be vendors in a blog post about the potential they see in San Jose. With a population of nearly 1 million, the area, this believe, is “uncharted territory” for street food vendors. Food Social’s selection of a club venue like Motif is intentional. According to a Food Social blog post: “The crowd that once visited San Jose for clubs like Vault, Deep and Wet are now a bit older and have turned their eyes on food to socialize. The street-food industry is just what San Jose needed to pick up popularity amongst young professionals.”
Food Social’s business model is similar to what Forage SF pioneered in San Francisco with its “underground markets.” It’s basically a private farmers’ market for fledgling cooks and bakers that gives them a chance to peddle their wares to a receptive audience. The hope is the culinary incubator encourages them to start a business and go mainstream.
Most of the cooks aren’t making their food in commercial kitchens and attendees must waive any claims against Food Social or Motif for undercooked chicken or half-baked cookies. But it’s really no more risky than going to a potluck dinner. The difference is these vendors are would-be street food vendors looking to break out of their kitchens and circle of friends and family and serve a wider audience. Some of the vendors signed up for the San Jose event are Willet’s Creations, Omi Ninja, Halal Halal, Won of a Kind and Simply Mochi.