Food halls have roots in Europe and date back centuries. They had previously landed stateside but fell out of favor and disappeared; until recently, when they have been gaining popularity once more. You might be wondering what the differences between a food hall and a food court are? According to Wikipedia (the most reputable source we know) “Unlike food courts made up of fast food chains, food halls typically mix local artisan restaurants, butcher shops and other food-oriented boutiques under one roof.”
From coast to coast, major cities are seeing a surge of food halls, often driven by local and national celebrity chefs. Eataly, opened in New York City in 2010 and arguably began the resurgence of the food hall trend in the United States. There are food halls now in almost every major US City – or they are coming soon.
It’s not just big cities attracting food halls anymore either. Since the first signs of a rebirth, smaller cities that are looking to rebrand have begun creating food halls in lieu of food courts that have been emptying out. The city of Oxnard in Southern California has begun to shed its image as an agricultural town, beginning in large part with a massive mall known as The Collection at RiverPark that features an elegant Whole Foods market and restaurant chains with roots in bigger cities, including nearby Los Angeles. As part of the transition, The Collection now also features The Annex a food hall that includes many second locations of some of L.A.’s trendiest food offerings.
Food halls can be very attractive to up and coming chefs and food makers because the startup expenses are significantly lower, the lease terms can often be shorter, and total rent is typically lower. Vendors in food halls can share the common expenses – seating, marketing, entertainment, cleaning, etc. across the entire hall. On the other side, landlords also benefit from food halls as they are usually rented at a slightly higher price per square foot and vacancies are not as detrimental.
By attracting small local purveyors, developers also hope to capture the elusive dollar that shuns big name brands and chains in favor of spending on experiences. Although the landscape for food halls remains new, I think this time, the trend is here to stay.