The food hall is nothing new – it’s a concept that has long been a part of life in many cultures across the globe.
The American food hall boom started in 2010 when Eataly opened in New York City. Sure, there were markets before that, such as the Ferry Building in San Francisco or Pike Place in Seattle, but Eataly elevated the food hall concept. The grand, sprawling, exciting market sparked a love of something else entirely – something trendy, artisanal and community-driven. Years later, in cities across the U.S., food halls are trendier than ever, with new projects being proposed almost weekly.
If you’re in the restaurant business or looking to break into it, you stand to gain a lot by being part of this vibrant trend. Let’s explore the benefits.
- Consumers are all in.
A recent survey by Culinary Visions Panel found that when it comes to food halls, the experience is what draws consumers in.
By nature, a food hall encourages more exploring and socializing. Visitors can walk from vendor to vendor, taking in the sights and smells, all with a coffee or cocktail in hand. They love that there’s so much variety to sample from – and that the food is typically gourmet, local and unique. Food halls often have one or more central seating areas, allowing groups to come together to share their meals.
- Food halls are traffic drivers.
Typically, food halls are built in central, high-traffic areas, providing lots of exposure for the vendors inside. As a result, they often become major tourist attractions. The variety and atmosphere offered by food halls also means that even locals come back again and again.
- They’re great for testing out new ideas.
Those who already have successful restaurants can leverage a space in food halls as a means for expansion.
Some chefs love to use their food hall outlet as a testing ground for new menu ideas. You can be a bit more nimble and experimental in a food hall setting. Others may be looking for a new challenge, itching for the right opportunity to showcase gourmet, artisanal food in a quick-serve setting.
- The overhead is significantly lower than at a full-service restaurant.
This is probably the most obvious benefit for those just breaking into the restaurant game, but it’s relevant for any business that needs to keep costs low.
Your physical space is much smaller, leases tend to be short-term and menus are shorter, which simplifies your supply chain. Often, certain costs are spread across all tenants, such as janitorial costs or the marketing of the food hall itself. In many cases, the landlord is responsible for securing a liquor license that covers the entire space, and it’s not uncommon for them to maintain a bar that serves all guests.
All of these factors allow restaurant concepts to focus solely on their food and their brand, while building up a reputation that puts them in a position to expand in the future.