Food Halls - I'm Here for the Experience

Food Halls - I'm here for the Experience!

Food Halls - I'm here for the Experience!

Food Halls are not just food courts in different guise.  They are new food destinations that are exciting consumers around the world by putting food, design and experience first.  These new dining meccas are all about hospitality - built on a strategy of the structure of traditional food courts and the success of Eataly and the great food markets of the world. All of this is informed by understanding the importance of modern biophilic design principles which are aimed at enhancing the well-being of users through “green-place” features. 

To date, this concept has been flourishing in North America and Western Europe but has been very slow to get started in Australia.  Over in New Zealand, however, the Press Hall in Wellington and Little High Eatery in Christchurch have been changing the food landscape in those cities by becoming world-class destinations.

The food hall itself is not a new concept.  The marketplace has been around for centuries, sustaining the life of the local communities which they service.  Just about any type of space can deliver these products and level of service. However, customers are no longer responding to these utilitarian offers.  The defining characteristic of a food hall is the holistic experience.  The modern Food Hall is a marketplace that is about so much more than food. It’s about design.  It’s about being social.  It’s about being a place with others that is beautiful and excites all of the senses.  What ultimately separates a Food Hall from a food court or anything else is that a Food Hall is not defined by the speed of service, but rather the quality of the whole experience – of which speed is but one component.

From New York to New Zealand, the modern dining clusters are collections of many disciplines, with food being only one of them.   Architecture, heritage preservation and interior, environment and ergonomic design all combine to curate a unique atmosphere. Food Halls are being re-imagined for the modern discerning diner who is looking for communal dining and food consciousness. It is a millennials paradise, as proven by the endless queues line up at Egg Slut at both Grand Central, Los Angeles and Block 16 at The Cosmopolitan Casino, Las Vegas .

There are several reasons why food halls have become such a global phenomenon.   First of all, our eating habits have drastically changed and Food Halls’ success has been in sync with how consumers’ demand has evolved. Adventurous, food focused, quality-conscious customers are constantly looking to eat differently every day, while fitting it into their busy schedules. They want to be able to choose from a variety of dishes and products on a daily basis and like to be able to choose from a list of high-quality ingredients and try world cuisines. The food itself is artisan, local, and quality-ingredient focussed. Big brands or established offers are overlooked in favour of local foodies driving quality offers and specialty menus of limited size. Other aspects such as inclusion of local wines or craft beers and spirits are often available as the common areas are frequently licenced in their entirety.

Food Halls’ success has also been due to tourists. Visitors on-the-go want to get the most out of their journey in terms of local experiences, which obviously includes food.   And, they only have a limited amount of time. Ordering a “sample platter” with the city’s best food while mingling with locals and browsing through aisles of local goods packs a lot of experiential value into one visit.

Locals too can take advantage from food halls. In addition to offering a variety of cuisines, they serve as grocery markets and often sell fresh and locally-sourced products.  In addition, they serve as modern public squares where people can spend an evening and hang out with their friends.

Future Food’s research for our Food Hall consultancy work across North America over the past twelve months has taken us to food halls in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Chicago, Atlanta, Silicon Valley, New York and London.  These vibrant food-collectives have emerged in both the heart of cities as well as neighbourhoods as they have become the new version of the traditional food court offering lifestyle retail food.   Food Halls are here to stay and Future Food is leading the way in developing these state of the art modern food courts with a twist!

Cover image: Ponce City Market via S9 Architecture