Food halls are sweeping the nation. By 2020, experts predict there will be 300 of these establishments around the country – compared to just 25 in 2010. What are food halls, anyway – and how did they become so popular?

 

Hallmark of Excellence

Food halls are somewhat similar to food courts, at least in design. These large, airy rooms feature several different dining options, from taquerias to breweries. Unlike their predecessors, they rent space to independent restaurants, not chains. The ideal food hall restaurant serves well-balanced, beautifully Instagram-able food. Variety is essential to these businesses.

Mall food courts were once simple, low-brow affairs, designed to keep customers well-fed with simple carbohydrates before catapulting them back into marathon shopping sprees. Food halls are more of a destination. Guests can choose from a wide range of cuisines, and even sample small plates from several different restaurants. This plethora of options especially appeals to the younger generations, who are focused on transparency and variety in their dining choices.

 

Town Hall

What makes food halls so popular? It’s not just that guests appreciate the atmosphere. These establishments are also a sharing economy for restaurants. By operating in such close proximity to each other, restaurants can collaborate instead of competing. Imagine you operate a coffee bar. Instead of buying baked goods wholesale from a distributor, why not simply send your guests next door to pick up a freshly baked croissant? The marketing opportunities are endless, and give restaurateurs the chance to learn from each other, and support one another’s goals.

This sharing economy also applies to certain overhead costs – such as flatware, paper goods, and restaurant furniture. In some cases, the owners of the food hall itself may provide these amenities; in other cases, several restaurant operators may invest in them as a group. Whatever model works for the specific businesses involved, this is certainly a way to reduce costs for everyone.

 

Food for All

Another benefit of food halls is the ease with which you can serve guests of any background. Your pizza restaurant may not have gluten-free options – but the salad bar across the way can probably accommodate guests avoiding wheat and carbs. This gives restaurateurs the opportunity to connect with guests who might not otherwise come into their businesses. A pizza-lover married to a person who suffers from Celiac disease only sees so many opportunities to indulge in their favorite kind of pie. By sharing space with other restaurants, you can also share the wealth of guest loyalty.

Food halls are growing fast – both in size and in scope. These collaborations are a perfect way for restaurant operators to learn from each other, stay on top of industry trends, and maximize guest satisfaction. How would your restaurant do in a food hall?