In a concrete jungle with over 10 million inhabitants, the paulistas (inhabitants of the city of São Paulo, in Brazil) have found a new way to disconnect from their busy routines and unwind… at least during lunchtime.
The so called food parks, unutilized public spaces that have been converted into open air food courts, are the new trend in São Paulo’s gastronomic scene. In these spaces, up to 30 different trailers, or food trucks, serve up to 3000 thousand customers a day with dishes ranging from traditional Brazilian food all the way to Chinese noodles, Vietnamese subs and British Fish n’ Chips. The trucks themselves are already an attraction, bearing creative names and customized paintings that represent the origins of the meals they prepare.
The food park craze started off recently in Brazil in the city of São Paulo and has already spread to other major Brazilian capitals such as Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte, where they help revitalize areas of the city that have been left aside and, at the same time, democratize access to quality food since the gourmet meals on food parks cost, on average, half as much as those found in shopping malls’ food courts or restaurants.
The food trucks also represent a fantastic alternative for office workers since many are located close to office complexes and offer affordable and diverse kinds of meals for those in a hurry. Moreover, and much aligned with trends such as the sharing economy and sustainability, newer food parks are venturing into areas other than food, offering open green spaces for people to watch movies, practice yoga and expose arts and crafts.
Ocupa Food Park in São Paulo’s Vila Mariana neighborhood, for instance, hosts plays, movie screenings and workshops aside from being home to a weekly organic food fair, in a clear example of how food parks are going from a gastronomic revolution into a full-blown reinvention of public space utilization.
However, as with many novelty trends in Brazil, fuzzy laws and regulations have been preventing food parks from flourishing even further, since local city councils have started taxing the food trailers’ owners as much as they tax their shopping mall counterparts, squeezing their profit margins and making it harder for paulistas to make the most out of their city.