Food for all at food halls
Renee Lee Wege
June 11, 2018

Hop off the plane at just about any major city and you’re bound to find a variety of food options, many of which are now conveniently located all under one roof at food halls. Food halls are continuing to trend across the country in cities small and large, popping up in anywhere from old bread factories to the long-vacant open markets of yesteryear. Food halls offer the ultimate compromise for consumers — no longer do groups have to duke it out over whether to go out for Chinese or sandwiches, as everyone can order what they want at a food hall and still enjoy a meal together. That wide appeal and sheer variety of options at food halls was one of the main draws consumers noted as reasons they enjoy visiting food halls.

Over half of consumers are interested in visiting a food hall, further showcasing that the trend shows little sign of slowing down. The Wall Street Journal reports that in 2016 there were just over 100 food halls across the country; by 2019, that number is predicted to double. A report by commercial real estate company Cushman & Wakefield mirrors those predictions, estimating the number of food halls to grow to 300 by 2020.

Datassential first looked at food halls in-depth in 2015, and as plans for new food halls have popped up seemingly every day since, we thought it was time to dive back in for an update. In our issue of "Creative Concepts: Next-Generation Food Halls," we examined the global food hall trend, digging into how food halls have evolved and uncovering some of the challenges that surround opening either a food hall or just a concept inside one (even with all the hoopla, food halls are far from being a surefire success). We also showcased consumers’ opinions, detailing what’s more important to them (having a larger variety of options, affordable choices, or all-day dining?).

Here’s a peek at four food halls we covered along with key takeaways for any operator:

The Proud Bird, Los Angeles, Calif.

When you hop off the plane at LAX, there’s a food hall you truly just can’t miss. Formerly an aviation-themed restaurant, The Proud Bird food hall sits on a plot of airport property, where customers can get a view of planes taking off from surrounding runways. At The Proud Bird, the trend of food halls mashes up with another food industry trend – pop culture concepts or themed restaurants. Everything at The Proud Bird is aviation-themed, from the “arrival” area where customers can place orders at any of the six culinary kitchens to the “departure” gate where food can be picked up. Also in line with the food hall’s location and theme, The Proud Bird caters directly to travelers – the Mile High Club bar and lounge offers a free shooter to anyone whose flight has been delayed or canceled.

La Centrale, Miami, Fla.

A food hall with an unlimited negroni fountain, personal shopper program, and a cooking studio? It’s an Italian free-for-all at Miami’s La Centrale, the city’s first Italian food hall. La Centrale follows in the footsteps of the Italian food halls before it (think Eataly), boasting over a dozen different Italian-centric restaurant options along with specialties like fresh-made pasta and gelato. To garner retail traffic as well, La Centrale offers a list of ingredients that includes many of those found the entrées that are served, allowing diners to simply check off what they might need to recreate the dishes at home. Hand the checklist off to an employee, and by the end of your meal, your shopping will be done for you.  Giving diners a convenient way to both eat a meal and purchase the ingredients to cook it fresh later can help operators garner both away-from-home and at-home business.

Ponce City Market, Atlanta, Ga.

Many food halls aren’t just playing around with one industry trend. At Atlanta’s Ponce City Market, food halls and all-in-one concepts join forces with eatertainment in the form of Skyline Park, the amusement park located on the rooftop of the food hall (yes, you read that right). Skyline is complete with a towering slide, freefall tower, and games like Skee-ball. While a full amusement park isn’t something that’s typically in the cards for most food hall operators, there’s still inspiration to be taken from Ponce City. Instead of full-blown attractions, consider adding experiential elements from eatertainment and amusement parks to a food hall – whether it’s board games and activities or whimsical fare like food on a stick or refreshing frosé (frozen rosé).

Revival Food Hall, Chicago, Ill.

Creating a food hall where both locals and tourists can experience some of a city’s most quintessential foods from well-known chefs is one of the most appealing food hall features for consumers, as nearly 60% say they’re interested in such a concept. At Revival, a food hall located in Chicago’s Loop (the bustling area that’s home to the largest concentration of jobs in Illinois), lunch-goers can find what’s essentially a greatest hits collection of Chicago-area restaurants. Along with growing chains like Aloha Poke Co. and fast casual seafood spot Brown Bag Seafood, there’s also trendy Detroit-style pizza and a café by day/bar by night concept that covers all the bases.

This is just a glimpse of the wide variety of food hall insights we uncovered. For more on food halls as well as other concepts trending throughout the industry, from mashup restaurants to retail brand restaurants, ask about Datassential’s TrendSpotting publications.

Renee Lee Wege is the senior publications specialist at Datassential, a supplier of trends, analysis and concept testing for the food industry. To purchase the Creative Concepts: Next-Generation Food Halls issue mentioned in the article, contact Datassential managing director Brian Darr at brian.darr@datassential.com.

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