Wimbledon’s Piazza hosted a food festival where businesses could advertise their stock in a bid to boost Wimbledon’s business interests.
By Samantha Webster and Jason Thomson
Wimbledon food-lovers were served up a feast as part of a campaign to raise the town’s game last week.
Hungry visitors were greeted with a mouth-watering array of cuisines in the area’s first ever Food Fest, running between March 22-25.
As part of Going for Gold, the event was the latest stage in a three-year bid to raise the centre’s status to a Business Improvement District (BID).
Businessmen and suppliers of Italian, Caribbean and Indian delights as well as vegetarian and vegan connoisseurs flocked to the Piazza to attract new customers.
“This is a good way to get people to know about what we’re doing,” said Franchisee Simon Harrop of Riverfood Organic Veg.
“I’m here to generate interest, to sign people up to my fruit and veg boxes.”
With 16 food stalls, Town Centre Manager Tracy Francis described it as a uniquely multi-cuisine event but had hoped it would attract more interest.
Miss Francis, who organised the event, said: “You’re not in a position to turn applicants away unless you’ve got, you know, 10 stalls and 30 applicants, and then you can cherry-pick.”
Snowed under by Winter Wonderland, Wimbledon’s Christmas festival, Miss Francis could only switch her focus to Food Fest in January.
Some traders struggled to find extra staff with the short notice, but businessmen still came from as far as York, such as internet entrepreneur Laura Conway.
The Cupcake-A-Licious owner said: “We do different festivals and markets, and we just found the Wimbledon Food Fest on the internet and thought we’d like to do it because it’s local.”
“It’s been hard work but good fun,” said Sandy Rerksasut, from Chang Thai Restaurant and Take Away.
“I’m hoping that people will come down to the restaurant.”
Miss Francis was hopeful that there would be a second Food Fest in 2011.
She said: “I think we’ve had enough interest, considering this is the first time.”
Launched in March 2009, Going for Gold aims to raise £120,000, matching the amount pledged by Merton Council in support of the campaign.
There will be more themed weeks to come throughout the year.