The food hall trend appears to have staying power.
There are 321 food halls in the U.S. alone – stretching from Miami to San Francisco – with another 145 in development, according to bisnow.com. Food hall facilities – which typically feature a rotating list of restaurants, and 20,000 square feet on average – have proven popular in urban areas like Minneapolis, as well as London.
Food halls “cater to busy shoppers who don’t want to sit down for a full meal necessarily and bridge the gap between traditional fast-food establishments and restaurants,” said Kay Gowrinath, managing director of Xquisite Productions, a U.K.-based company largely focused on design.
“Since consumers now value speed, efficiency, and choice, these food halls give a good range for couples, families, and people who may not have otherwise gone out to dine,” Gowrinath added.
They might look somewhat similar to the mall foodcourts of yore, but food halls are designed with a different set of motivations. Food halls have become a robust platform for cultural expression, for one thing, creating a new perspective on dining establishments.
“Inclusion begins with exposure to a variety of cultures. By their very nature, food halls’ rotating assortment of vendors and their unpretentious, small-bite dishes make discovering new cuisines and the cultures that inspire them easy,” said Yuwen Peng, associate principal at architecture firm CRTKL.
Food halls are helping keep downtowns vibrant, while revitalizing dilapidated department stores and factories, along with once-fading shopping malls like Rosedale Center in Roseville, Minnesota. (To see a slide show of innovative food halls, check out this Reader’s Digest article.)
Some industry experts feel food halls are the safest investment in restaurant real estate. Of the roughly 80 U.S. food halls opened since March 2020, only 15 have closed, according to bisnow.com. And, the number of food halls in America is set to increase by as much as 45% in the coming years.
The ability to switch out food hall vendors quickly and easily, plus the facilities’ ability to host events like trivia and bingo, contributes to their resilience. And, since most of these facilities feature a large, centralized bar, foot traffic tends to remain steady most days.
“These food halls offer a two-pronged benefit to the community,” Shannon Wolfgang, director of marketing at VisitPITTSBURGH, told The Food Institute. “First, they serve as an accelerator for aspiring chefs, with an opportunity to develop new restaurant concepts. … Secondly, they serve as innovative community hubs with unique dishes, signature cocktails, local craft beer, and more.”
San Francisco-based Local Kitchens is even finding sizable consumer interest in so-called “micro” food halls, and earlier this year announced plans to continue its rapid expansion with five new locations in Northern California, according to Nation’s Restaurant News.
“Given the increase and uptake of food halls, they’re here to stay,” Gowrinath said.