Pierogi are present in cities all over the UK. The dumplings pop up everywhere from Chester to Aberdeen, fuelled by the number of Polish people in the country craving a taste of home. But could the dish take a slice of the burgeoning food-to-go market?
Damian Wawrzyniak hopes to prove that they can. The TV chef and culinary mind behind House of Feasts recently announced that he’s looking to build a network of Pierogi Kiosks throughout the UK. He’s reportedly sold two franchises so far, with the first store set to open in central London later this year.
Food-to-go is outperforming the overall eating-out market, according to statistics from MCA and HIM, and will rake in an estimated £21.2bn in 2019. Specialist food-to-go operators in particular are pinching more of the market.
“More and more people are leading busy lives, they want to eat on-the-go but they also want to explore new flavours and try new things, and that’s exactly what Pierogi Kiosk aims to do: combine the convenience of the fast food culture with authentically different cuisine that tickles the taste buds,” says Wawrzyniak.
A slow boil
Pierogi are one of the quintessential Polish comfort foods. These filled dumplings are made with unleavened dough, which is then either boiled or fried. It’s an incredibly flexible format, capable of taking on both savoury and sweet fillings.
The Sparrows, a Manchester-based restaurant specialising in dumplings, features one of the most classic versions: minced mushrooms with sauerkraut. London’s Mamuska, meanwhile, offers a version with goat’s cheese and spinach as well as one with seasonal fruits on its diverse Polish menu.
Even the big supermarkets stock the most common version of the dumpling, pierogi ruskie, containing cottage cheese and potatoes. Tesco offers the U Jedrusia brand, while Sainsbury’s stocks Polish manufacturer Virtu.
It’s safe to say that the dish is not unfamiliar to UK eaters, but it also has had a relatively limited presence beyond neighbourhood joints. Despite the fact that Mintel reported one in 10 people were buying Polish food regularly back in 2015, there's been no sign of a national chain restaurant, though there were reports last year that Polish operator North Fish were scouting the UK for sites.
Pierogi Kiosk hopes to change all that by taking over spaces in malls and travel hubs – a sort of Polish version of Upper Crust or West Cornwall Pasty Co., if you will.
The exact menu has not been finalised but is expected to include a few other simple items to complement the main fare, such as a sourdough sandwich with salt beef and pastrami.
“For me, it’s always been about introducing diners to Polish dishes with a British twist,” added Wawrzyniak.
So does Sparkie think there’s an opportunity here?
Pierogi feels like an area that deserves to be having a little more recognition than it does. The dumplings can be really good, but either through poor perceptions or bias, the Polish section of the supermarket doesn’t get much attention by British consumers.
I think this is an area that needs some media love to begin some growth. Done well, this pierogi would make a great, unique food-to-go offering which would drive some sales through curiosity, which could in turn help drive sales for Polish food as a whole.