Pimp My Street Kitchen rebrands informal street food vendors

Being Frank, a collective of three South African designers, is hoping to transform three informal food vendors into well-branded, mobile food trailers.

Do you pay much attention to the informal food vendors and kiosks on the side of the road? What if each of them had an eye-catching visual identity that set them apart from the others? Might they be more memorable then? South African design collective Being Frank thinks so.  

Pimp My Street Kitchen, an initiative by Being Frank, is raising funds to transform three South African informal food vendor trailers into well branded, health-and-safety-compliant mobile food trailers, with fully equipped and functional kitchens. In the process, the three female chefs who run the trailers will also learn business acumen skills and gain the knowledge to grow their businesses and help others do the same.

Being Frank is made up of three creative entrepreneurs: Kirsten Townsend, Jo Theron and Shannon Davis. The project Pimp My Street Kitchen began as a way for the three of them to give back to their community through their skills rather than cash.

Informal businesses and traders make up a large part of the South African economy, but most are not branded. Understanding the importance of business branding – especially for a business that aims to grow – Being Frank partnered with three food trailer vendors in Johannesburg. All three trailers are owned and run by female vendors – Ali, Busi and Johanna – and each was to get a unique visual identity from Being Frank. But first, the designers began a process of getting to know and understand each of the vendors.  

Ali’s most popular dish is her vetkoek (which means “fat cake” in Afrikaans and is a type of deep fried bread very particular to South Africa and served filled with mince or jam). Busi’s small shop-caravan was partially destroyed by a tree that fell in a storm. Johanna, known by her customers as “Lady Jo”, serves quick and affordable lunches to many of the workers in Johannesburg’s Hyde Park.

When Being Frank embarked on what they thought would be a straightforward visual identity project with the vendors, they quickly realised that the everyday problems that the three ladies faced were deeper than their lack of stand-out branding. Their poorly equipped, make-shift operations were in dire need of an upgrade in order for their business to comply with health and safety regulations. The Pimp My Street Kitchen project’s ambitions quickly grew to include access to water and proper kitchen equipment and refrigeration. 

The three proposed visual identities for Ali, Busi and Lady Jo are fun, loud and reflective of the three ladies’ cultures. Busi’s new branding is inspired by Zulu culture and Ali’s Kitchen carries the distinctive patterns of the Ndebele people.  

The Pimp My Street Kitchen project is currently raising funds on crowdfunding platform Indiegogo, where Being Frank are also inviting local entrepreneurs to become part of the skills sharing project and “adopt-a-vendor”. For example, chefs can provide food preparation workshops.