Defining Food Halls
Many people might think a food hall is just a new name for the ubiquitous and outdated mall food court, but that would be incorrect. Food halls are more akin to when Fast Casual appeared as an upgrade to traditional QSR. So what is a food hall? A food hall is a collection of operators/concepts sharing a common space, typically focused on local, regional and/or authentic offerings. These establishments generally have a full bar area as well.
According to Cushman & Wakefield, when they began tracking the number of food halls in 2016 there were roughly 120. That number is expected to nearly quadruple by 2020 with an expected 450 food halls operational in the US. It seems that a new food hall is opening every few months in Chicago, with at least four openings in 2019 alone.
What’s Driving Growth?
Food halls allow chefs and aspiring restaurateurs to test a concept or expand their reach with low startup and overhead costs, as they’re only responsible for food and beverage costs and back of house staff. The food hall operator – which may be a restaurant group, media company or foodservice management firm – is responsible for the marketing and PR, front of house staff and dining area needs, like tables, décor and glassware. Food halls are often bustling during lunch and dinner, especially in urban areas. Another benefit of this type of establishment is the opportunity to cater or serve food during private events in these unique spaces.
Noteable Food Halls
Time Out Markets: Time Out Media Group’s markets are open in Lisbon, Miami, Boston and New York City. Locations in Chicago and Montreal are slated to open this year, and in several more cities globally by 2022.
Revival Food Hall: Revival is one of many food halls available to Chicago diners. It is operated by a multi-concept restaurant operator and features a mix of well-known Chicago operators outside its restaurant group, like Aloha Poke and Farmers Fridge.
Politan Row: Politan Row is one of Chicago’s newest food halls, located in the west loop. Operators are local business owners recruited by the hall to open a stall, which shows the curation of local offerings for these spaces. Politan Row is part of Politan Group’s growing food hall operation, with units in New Orleans (St. Roch Market, Auction House Market), Miami and Chicago; Houston is slated to open this fall.
Foodservice IP’s Take
As food halls continue expanding in urban centers at such a rapid pace, the question will be if suburban consumers will share in the excitement. In addition, with the softening economy expected, multiple venues under a single roof an appeal to shared business costs and a one-stop destination for broad, hip and local fare.