Bar in repurposed railway arch decorated with kitsch armchairs and sofas.

Unlikely Locations For Food Entrepreneurs

With new restrictions comes creative solutions from savvy food entrepreneurs. Have a read of some of the more unusual locations to set up your food business.
Author Headshot
Olivia Higgs
Mar 2
2.5 mins
Mar 2
2.5 mins

Throughout history, street corners have been home to vendors selling food but as city rents continue to rise, food entrepreneurs have had to get savvy. In search of cheap rents, many have brought new life to disused, historical structures.

Albanian Bunkers - Communist Relics Become Functional Spaces

Across Albania from inner-city Tirana to the countryside and mountain valleys, you'll find little concrete bunkers. 750,000 of these bunkers were built during Enver Hoxha's communist government in the 1960's and 80's. The paranoid dictator was convinced of an incoming attack from all sides - Yugoslavia, Greece, NATO and the Soviet Union. So rather than relying on a professional army he put the plan in motion that every Albanian would be able to go to a nearby bunker and take up arms. The invasion never came and the result was a huge drain on the country's resources. Following the end of the communist state, these bunkers became abandoned until more recent years where Albanians have found new uses for the real estate. Once communist relics, they now function as pizzerias, bars, as well as hostels, homes and animal shelters.

A concrete communist bunker in Albanian with 'Bar-Kafe' and 'Hamburger-Sanduic' painted on the side in black
Albanian Bunker Kafe|CIPE

Railway Arches & Phone Boxes - Micro Spaces for Macro Ideas

The railway arches aren't just a remnant of Britain's Victorian industrial heritage. They're also a relatively affordable space for small businesses across many British cities. Not only have they been a refuge for traditional metal workers and mechanics but they're also becoming homes for creatives, like cheesemakers, brewers and bakeries. Makers are able to produce and sell their creations to the passing public from the same place without ever disturbing those living nearby. Also, multiple arches means that businesses can expand into adjacent spaces as they grow, all while benefitting from the knowledge and community of neighboring businesses. These some-what hidden rows of small businesses are bringing life to neighborhoods as a so-called 'industrial high street'.

A bar in a repurposed railway arch with kitsch armchairs and decor
Little Nan's Deptford London

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The iconic red telephone boxes found dotted across London are another symbol of British history that have seen a new lease of life.Becoming obselete with the rise of the mobile phone, they were eventually sold off by British Telecom after years of disuse. The Red Kiosk Company became responsible for leasing, and selling them to budding entrepreneurs with a bigidea. Today, they're now home to cosy sandwich shops, coffee kiosks and ice cream shops. Some of them even house book exchanges and micro workspaces. Turns out you can fit a whole lot in a 3-square-foot bit of pavement!

A red telephone box with shelving inside filled with drinks, salad dishes and fruit. The owner is stood in front smiling with a takeaway salad box.
Spiers Salads, London

Affordable Food & Community in Berlin Squats

And then you have the Berlin squat scene. Post-war and the wall, Berlin is a city that prides itself on its countercultural movements. Unlike in other places where squatters do their best to evade authorities, in Berlin squats are strikingly visible often with anti-capitalism signs and activist messaging covering the facades. Squat communities started to become more prominent when the Berlin Wall came down - East Berliners fled west, and West Berliners headed east. Abandoned buildings in the East which were in disrepair, attracted squatters often made up of creatives, artists and left-wing activists. They typically came together over a shared political agenda, whether anti-capitalist, feminist, or otherwise. The squats that exist today are self-sustaining and have opened their doors to the local community offering full meals and beer at affordable prices in a canteen-like setting. Beyond food, they also put on gigs, parties, films and art shows. However, as housing prices are on the rise in Berlin and gentrification is in full flow, many of these squat communities are (controversially) being shut down, to make way for property developers to move in.

A large grey building in disrepair with banners hanging from windows with activist slogans.
‘Köpi’|tipBerlin| Imago/PEMAX

Filipino Food Market in an Abandoned Bus Station

Modern-day Israel has experienced multiple waves of immigration from across the Jewish diaspora and Arab world. One neighbourhood where you can see this is in Tel Aviv's Neve Sha'anan where you'll see a blend of food influences brought over by Asian and African immigrants as well as asylum seekers. You'll find Ethiopian, Sudanese, Eritrean and Chinese food (to name just a few!) against the backdrop of a well-known architectural blunder that is the abandoned bus station. The station is seven floors, with a bomb shelter in the basement originally made to withstand an Iranian nuclear attack and it's home to a unique species of bat which has since received protection status. This brutalist structure fell into neglect after delays, cement shortages, and ever-increasing debt, but the local community took matters into their own hands using the space for a Filipino market. You'll find market stalls selling pre-packaged snacks as well as delicious Filipino hot food and sweet treats you can have to take away.

A woman at an exotic fruit stand, organising a punnet of cherries.
Filipino Market Tel Aviv
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