Over the past month Future Food has been travelling to touch base with projects, research and continue looking at where the future of food and hospitality lies around the world. From Adelaide to Los Angeles with a stop at a hospitality conference in Colombia in between, Francis Loughran, leading industry expert and Future Food’s Managing Director, paid particular attention to the uprising of the food hall - one of the largest growing hospitality segments around the globe. With the changing pace and priorities of our communities and consumers, Francis believes that the food hall is thriving as it delivers to the three vital aspects of success during this transformative time: the community, the changing consumer and the quality.
By 2019, the US food hall marketplace will have more than doubled in size in just four years and Europe who already has over 100 food halls dotted across it has double that figure in the pipeline. As with all trends, not every one of these food halls will succeed and reach business sustainability however, the past and present show that the food hall which aims to embrace the community it is in, model its masterplan based on the new consumer and provide top-tier food options based on quality as well as reputation are and will be placed in an advantageous position in today's food and hospitality marketplace.
Successful food halls reflect the community that they reside in. Moreover, they have the power to create a community if one does not yet exist by becoming the social nucleus of a city. Recently visited Grand Central Market in LA is proof of this with it`s 100 years of success attributed to its commitment “to preserve the legacy of a historic downtown landmark, to gather the city's many communities around a shared table, and to nurture the next generation of local businesses”. Like Grand Central Market has done in creating dynamic downtown scene, food halls are in a unique position to be able to tailor the experience to the people and place it belongs to and build a community from it.
As more apartment buildings and residential hubs are built outside the city centre and suburbs are created, food halls can bring a sense of community and provide the space people need to belong. In return, new communities provide the critical mass necessary to sustain a food hall at breakfast, lunch and dinner, both during the week and on weekends as new office buildings, transit hubs, single residences and multifamily residential buildings bring populations in need of space to dine, drink and enjoy.
We have discussed it countless times now but here it is once again, consumers today are no longer spending on commoditised products and services but preferring to buy into experience. Millennials and younger are leading this shift but it is moving upwards with the older demographics also investing in a feeling rather than a `thing`. This shift in demographic preference is leading to steady but strong growth in the naturally experiential activity of dining out with food and beverage spend growing by 5% annually across the globe. Paired with this spend growth is the fact that today's consumers are demanding healthier and better-tasting “quick casual” food options in entertaining environments.
Head to France's food capital, Lyon and you find Les Halles des Lyon - a undercover food hall slash theme park for immersive food experiences where you can snack on fresh sashimi sliced by the fishmonger whilst sitting on bar stools or have charcuterie boards built in front of you, served on butcher`s paper alongside a glass of champagne. Shop owners throw jokes to their neighbouring owners across your table, tasters are offered to you at every stall and every operator tries to gain your business by striking up conversation as you walk past. It is an inviting, casual, cultural experience where you are dished up faster, fresher food that has more flavor than frills.
Commitment to Quality
If one thing is for sure, people today are less willing to stand for something that does not meet their expectations on quality. This applies to both the quality of the space and the quality of the product. Food halls can deliver on both. On the design front, food halls typically have the ability overcome one of hospitality`s biggest design challenges and that is the seating. Seating can enhance or diminish the quality of a hospitality space but food halls have the capacity to use a vast array of indoor and outdoor seating options including large social tables for family-style gatherings, private tables, bar tops, low seats and viewing options which provide the setting, space and ambience to best accommodate the consumer. They are also constantly evolving spaces that have the flexibility and freedom to adapt with changing visitation patterns to ensure the highest quality design experience at all times.
On a food front, the food hall is a hospitality segment that accommodates young food entrepreneurs, authentic and traditional makers and top-tier chefs and allows them to come together to provide a balanced mix of old, new and noteworthy quality food options without any of the frills you would find in a more formal development. This mix creates a magnetic, buzzing energy that only comes from having so many food operations gathered together in one space.
Food halls are proving to be a `segment of the moment` as they fulfil three factors, the three `C`s, of successful operation in today's marketplace: community, changing demographics and commitment to quality. Overall, the success of the food hall lies in the developer’s ability to tailor the experience to the local community and maintain its authenticity by working with the best mix of operators as well as providing inspiring design and architecture for the best quality experience.