What Is A Food Hall?

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A food hall or food market is a cafeteria-style market with local vendors, often offering multicultural cuisines. Vendors are usually made up of up-and-coming local food spots founded by chefs and restaurateurs, although some can be family-owned businesses or passion projects turned businesses. In a food hall, patrons still get the convenience of a casual and quick food option with the added benefit of freshly made, authentic food. Food halls sometimes also include markets, allowing customers to also shop for groceries or other specialized items. They can also include specific vendors such as bakers, butchers, or florists.

The food hall concept is similar to the food truck frenzy that occurred a few years ago. Food trucks took off as a new, unique way of serving food without the hassle or logistics that came with opening a storefront. In a similar vein, food halls allow businesses to show off their brand and serve delicious food without those same stresses. Even more so, there's no need to worry about paying for gas or finding a good parking spot. The emergence of food halls has allowed many local businesses to showcase their skills. In this guide, we break down what a food hall is, how it is beneficial, and more. people at counter at food hall

History of Food Halls

Food halls, much like department stores, take a lot of influence from ancient backgrounds across the world. But, markets have existed in the U.S. for some time; Quincy Market in Boston opened in 1825, and Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia opened in 1893. While these were primarily markets for goods, a contrast from food halls today, they offered an idea of what a modern food hall could look and operate like. Many food halls in the U.S. today are located in buildings that were previously warehouses, factories, train stations, and more. By preserving these buildings and using them as food halls, it not only provides a rustic feel, but also ties into a city's history.

One of the first modern food halls, as we know them today, is Eataly, which opened in 2007 in Turin, Italy. Since then, Eataly has opened over 35 locations globally including New York, Los Angeles, London, and Seoul. Eataly is a multi-concept food hall, meaning they own and operate all the vendors. Food halls can also be multi-vendor, which means that each vendor is individually owned and operated and just rents the space. According to Cushman & Wakefield in 2019, there were over 300 food halls with the prediction that more would be opening in the coming years. Imagine how many there are now!

Food Hall Vs. Food Court

Food halls are quite different from the food courts you would traditionally find at shopping malls. When it comes to food courts in a mall, many of them have a similar layout: a fast-food restaurant, a Philly cheesesteak place, an Asian restaurant, a pizza place, and an ice cream or cookie shop. The main purpose of a food court is to grab a quick bite in between shopping.

Where food halls differ is that while food courts are composed of national chains, food markets offer local, artisan foods that are often made to order. In many cases, you get to see the chefs at work, cooking the order right in front of you, whereas in a food court setting, the food is often in a display case. Food halls highlight creations from local chefs and aspiring restaurateurs, so they are a way to immerse yourself into a city's culture instead of a commercialized dining experience. The main focus is to provide food, rather than serve as a pit stop. While many food halls and markets do offer specialty shops or stores, they are complementary to the dining, rather than the other way around. mall food court

Why Are Food Halls So Popular

Food halls have tremendously increased in popularity over the more recent years. In fact, according to Cushman & Wakefield's numbers, there are well over 100 food halls in the U.S. One reason for their growing popularity is that food halls offer patrons the opportunity to grab a meal with a group while alleviating the stress of picking a place everyone can agree on. In a food market, everyone has the choice to pick what they want to eat while still getting to share a meal with loved ones. They are also a great opportunity to try new foods with the convenience of staying in one location. You can get multiple items from different vendors, allowing you to curate a meal that is perfect for you.

Food halls are also great for the community. Most (if not all) vendors in a food market are traditionally small, local businesses. It allows customers to support local businesses that showcase the best foods the city has to offer. Food halls can also be viewed as a community space, somewhere where locals and tourists alike can come together to enjoy food, drinks, and entertainment. Many offer live music, events, and artisan shops that enhance the experience of going to eat at a food hall. Additionally, the communal seating layout provides the opportunity for meeting new people rather than being confined to your own table.

Benefits Of Food Halls For Vendors

With more and more food halls popping up around the country and the world, it proves that they are a great opportunity for consumers, developers, and vendors. Patrons are able to enjoy the excitement of trying a variety of dishes in a communal space with friends and family. For retail developers, it increases revenue and real estate value. And, having multiple vendors means that if there is one struggling, it doesn't necessarily derail the success of the food hall as a whole.

Having their business in a food hall can be a great opportunity for local chefs or aspiring restaurateurs. They are able to try something new on a smaller scale while developing their brand, customer base, and serving customers their delicious creations. Here are some significant benefits that come with being a vendor in a food hall:

Reduces Start Up Costs

For many up-and-coming restaurateurs, opening a location in a food hall is a great way to get a start. It provides them with an opportunity to get their foot in the door without the high-stakes risk of opening a restaurant. Opening a brick-and-mortar restaurant can prove to be time-consuming and expensive. In a market setting, many of the expenses are shared among tenants, so it's less of a financial strain. The market provides equipment, power, plumbing, and other utilities, so vendors don't have to worry about as many setup costs or contracting.

Contract Flexibility

The risk of investing into a space in a market is significantly lower than investing in their own restaurant. Many food halls will offer vendors licenses rather than leases because they are less strict, don't require approval from a lawyer, and are shorter than leases for restaurants. Because the contracts for food halls are usually much more lenient, it allows the flexibility to opt-out if their business isn't doing as well as they had hoped. This alleviates some stress and pressure to do well because of the investment and really lets chefs focus on the craft.

Lots Of Foot Traffic/Advertisement

Food halls generate a lot of foot traffic. In most cases, they are located in highly-populated areas, such as near shopping hubs, offices, or breweries. This means that as more people are wandering around a food market, the more marketing a vendor is getting. This is especially beneficial for businesses that are still growing. It helps build a brand and develop a loyal customer base. Even if people aren't stopping by a specific food stand this time around, hopefully, their interest is piqued, and they'll come by the next time. Having the business's name and logo clearly visible helps potential future and current customers know who that vendor is and what they offer. people in a food hall

Explore Your Local Food Hall!

There are multiple food halls located around the U.S. and the world. They are a great opportunity for customers to immerse themselves into the culture of a specific city, and a way for food business owners to experiment with their brand and their skills. Food halls are the perfect way to gather with friends and family while choosing food everyone will enjoy.

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