Food halls are popping up all over the country as restaurant operators seek to open new concepts with lower overhead costs while delivering a unique culinary experience to their customers. For those not familiar with food halls, they are like the fading mall food courts but with much better food prepared with sustainable, local ingredients. Foods range from Americana comfort to a mixture of global cuisines. Here, it’s possible to find the best-pulled pork sandwich, lobster roll or sushi you’ve ever had. The quality of food is one of the factors that sets food halls apart. Famous chefs such as Tom Colicchio, and Jose Andres are among the chefs opening restaurants in food halls, highlighting their individual culinary achievements. Besides food, the halls can offer entertainment, cooking demonstrations, full bars and goods from local purveyors.
Food courts take on different formats. Some are run by an individual owner and operator. This allows for restaurateurs to have more control over their space. Other food halls are collective spaces for multiple operators. Here, restaurants must be different from one another to offer a distinct culinary experience. The operators work with vendors and share costs for everyone’s success.
With consumers shopping more online, traffic at malls has slowed down considerably. Developers are bringing in craft breweries, food halls, specialty grocery stores and restaurants from well-known chefs to bring more consumers into mall buildings.
Hmart, the largest Asian supermarket chain in America, is continuing to grow with the addition of Korean food halls accompanying their supermarkets. Features include everything from cosmetics, sushi, shaved ice cream, tofu varieties and Asian bakeries. The halls also include seven to ten dining establishments, some by famed Korean chef Deuki Hong.
FACTS: Here’s what you need to know
- 61% of consumers reported they would like to visit a food hall. They are looking for grab-and -go, healthy allergy-free options for a variety of dining occasions without being formatted like a cafeteria. Datassential 2018.
- Recent Cushman & Wakefield research reveals food halls are gaining momentum in the US eatery, particularly amongst Millennial foodies looking for more outside-the-box experiences. Bisnow Online.
- Food hall awareness has grown steadily for at least a decade. The relative popularity of the Google search term “food hall” reveals that the concept is more popular than ever. (Karen Raquet).
- Google search data reveals relative mindshare for the term “food hall” is concentrated around New York, Washington DC, Los Angeles and the Bay Area. Cities where celebrity chefs like Mario Batali have dropped their curated food halls to much acclaim. (Karen Raquet).
THE PROS: What they are saying
“We are constantly trying to provide top quality food and service to our guests and to promote our rich and robust culture.” Stacey kwon, president,
HMart, Lyndhurst, NJ
- “Designs are important to me, and I wanted to bring a more unique look and feel. Not all food halls are that way. Some are very vanilla and very simple. But the ones I have enjoyed the most in my foreign travel are restaurants that had something interesting about the building from an ambiance standpoint. “Jeffery Frederick, Elite Brand Hospitality Group,
Las Vegas, NV
“Now malls are going through a 180. “They’re flipping the mall to be more of an experimental destination, with food being the main component.” Jeremy Fall, restauranteur, Los Angeles, CA
“Food halls are extremely popular right now. I think it is the future of dining. I thought it was about time we dipped our feet in thatpool.” Chef Tom Colicchio, restaurant Hospitality 2018
“We think there’s an opportunity to create a different aesthetic, so it doesn’t look like a food hall. What we are creating here is a live work play destination.” Joel Rosen, managing director of GFI Hospitality, a division of GFI Development (on the Gateway Project in Kansas City)
“People are moving away from the dingy, low-lit food court with a Taco Bell next to a McDonald’s. People are demanding to know what ingredients go into their food and who the chef is.” Michael Marsal, founding partner at Alvarez & Marsal Property Investments.
- Variety is the spice of life and food halls have it all – great food, entertainment and vendors. They continue to expand into newly built buildings, abandoned brick warehouses and malls. Food halls provide an immersive often multi-cultural experience all in one location. What a great opportunity this provides for operators and restaurant owners alike to introduce and share the culture of their foods and flavors.
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Chef Tony is a 42-year veteran of the food industry and is often known by his peers as “The New Product Guru.” Throughout his illustrious culinary career, he’s earned several notable titles and positions including Acquisition International’s “Most Influential Product Development Expert, U.S.” in 2019.
In 1997, Tony also founded Culinary Systems Inc., a group of culinary consultants that assist with culinary training, restaurant start-ups, concept development, and more. Since then, Tony and his team have generated over two billion dollars in sales for their clients in restaurants, retail, and manufacturing.
The strategic, technical, and culinary skills of Tony and his team can be seen on the menus of national chains, in the portfolio of national food manufacturers, and on the grocery shelves of products produced by major retail companies.