Multiple interviews were conducted with halal cart customers who were asked about their experiences with halal carts.
Here are some of the questions that were asked:
- How often do you eat at halal carts and is this more of a recent trend for you or have you always eaten at halal carts?
- Do you enjoy halal carts mostly for the food or for the convenience?
- Do you know how halal food is made and what is done differently in the preparation of halal food compared to non-halal food?
- Do you eat at halal carts because it is halal, or because of the flavor of the food?
- What is one thing you think that halal carts offer to you that other restaurants don’t?
- Do you trust the halal food offered by the halal carts to be authentic halal food?
- Which part of halal Food is your favorite (i.e. the meat, the sauce, or the rice) and why?
One interview was conducted with a construction worker at noon near Baruch college. According to the construction worker, although he eats halal food everyday, he doesn’t know what halal food is, doesn’t know the difference between authentic halal food and non-authentic halal food, and doesn’t have the slightest interest in the authenticity of halal food at halal carts. The worker was getting on line to buy halal simply for the convenience. This clearly demonstrates that people may not care as much about the authenticity, and are simply buying halal food because it’s quick and convenient (the construction worker was on his break from work and wanted to eat halal food because the cart was close to his work site). When asked whether or not he would eat at a restaurant that serves authentic halal food, he immediately replied no, which further reinforces the fact that not too many people lining up really care about the authenticity of the food.
On a separate occasion several students at the Bronx High School of Science as well as Lehman College were interviewed about how they felt about halal food. These are students who have eaten at the very popular halal cart owned by Mohammed who is known by all the locals as “Tony”. One of the first questions asked to the students was how often they ate halal food. With a large array of different answers, the frequency varied greatly. Some limit themselves to once every few months for health reasons, and others eat halal food on a weekly basis. The next question asked was how much taste and convenience factored into their purchasing of halal food from halal carts. Many answered that they often times ate halal for both the convenience and the taste, but the general consensus was that taste was definitely more important. One student explained that even though Tony’s halal cart is almost a 10 minute walk away from Bronx Science, many students opt to take that walk in order to get the food. They also added that the cost definitely adds to the convenience. When asked about how the preparation of the food is done and how it is distinct from non-halal food preparation, only one out of the 7 students interviewed was able to describe the difference. When asked about whether or not they thought the food was authentically halal, the majority believed that it was. However, a small group decided that whether or not it was actually halal did not factor into their decision to eat the food. When asked to compare authentic halal food with those from Tony’s cart, many stated that they were unsure of how authentic halal food tasted.
The following is an audio clip of another interview conducted with a random halal cart customer in New York City:
The interviews that were conducted were not conducted with a large enough sample size to conclude anything as fact, but it seemed as though most people that eat at halal carts do so mostly for the taste. The convenience plays a role as well, but most people interviewed were not knowledgable in the intricacies of the preparation of the food even though a select few did know the difference between halal and non-halal food.