Ray Camillo – Founder & CEO, Blue Orbit Restaurant Consulting
It’s a vibrant Friday night, and some friends have decided to go out and unwind. Half the squad wants to get pizza from Danny’s while the rest is obsessing over shrimp tacos from Shakes. Queue the 30-minute frustrating debate or possibly not, because they can opt for a food hall experience instead.
A food hall is a lively setting that allows customers to order food from various vendors and still dine in a communal space. It’s like multiple food trucks in one place minus the wheels.
It reduces the hassle while still maintaining the thrill of browsing through numerous culinary cuisines. Thus, food halls have grown in popularity and are expected to maintain an upward trend.
The big question is: will the benefits outweigh the costs if you decide to start a food hall or join one as a vendor?
For vendors, by joining a food hall, you’ll:
- Drastically cut the startup costs – Generally, the cost is lower because you aren’t launching a solo restaurant. Many landlords will provide the furniture and equipment to get you going, which means that you won’t have to contract with as many merchants, or even worse, worry about plumbing.
- In a sense, get free marketing – This one especially goes for vendors who are yet to establish their brand. There’s a consistent flow of people who will want to come and check out your food all in the spirit of curiosity in a food hall. Once you get them hooked, you’ll automatically get your loyal following.
- Put yourself through less risk – Given that the startup cost is low in a food hall, you will incur less of a loss if things don’t go according to plan. You also stand to gain valuable insight from the customers themselves if you plan to launch your restaurant someday. Think of it as a trial run.
- Have a flexible contract – Contracts are usually shorter in food halls since landlords like to have the option of switching out vendors. They also mostly come in forms of licenses rather than leases. Licenses don’t require a lawyer’s approval and have less strict terms.
For hall concept developers, starting a food hall:
- Increases the chances of success – This is because you’ll be working with multiple vendors and concepts. If customers find a problem with one vendor, you don’t risk losing the clientele since they’ll move on to the next vendor.
- Boosts your earnings – The more space you lease in your building, the more profit you can bring in. The more popular the food hall becomes, the higher the value of other rooms in your facility and surrounding structures become.
4 Insightful Ways to Ensure Your Food Hall Thrives
For your restaurant concept to work, you should ensure your food hall:
- Is in the Perfect Location
Like any other business, you need to ensure that you have a consistent flow of customers. Setting up the food hall in high foot traffic areas can cut down on marketing costs.
Depending on your theme, you might like it near resorts or in the city where all the action attracts local and international tourists. If you want a faster pace, you could set it up near offices where a happy hour and lunchtime call for speed and quality in food presentation.
Don’t just settle on placing a food hall near a resort or office complexes; place it in a high traffic area, or near a brewery. This way, the food hall will always be the first choice people see before mapping directions to other restaurants. As you already know, out of sight, out of mind.
To figure out how visible it’s going to be, pay attention to the routes people mostly take. Do they walk or drive by a particular lane a lot? Are there any shops or wineries nearby? Such areas are jackpots.
- Is Highly Engaged with the Environment and Community
Consumers are usually very interested in supporting small and local businesses. While developers provide furniture, vendors could add their personal touch to spice things up. This will give each space a unique, endearing flair that resonates more with the consumers. I know I would go for a taco place that is locally sourcing their ingredients from a nearby farmer’s market.
Even something as simple as designing the food hall around the community itself will boost sales. For example, Rock Row, a food hall in Portland, was designed around Maine’s brewery community. The space had tasting rooms where brewers could showcase local products to the community, thus drastically scaling up their businesses and the food hall.
- Properly Targets the Right Consumers
A food hall will satisfy various food concepts providing potential in bringing in a broad audience. The key is achieving the correct mixture of restaurants inside the food hall to give guests a perfect balance.
Defining your target customers’ range properly will help you figure out which type of vendors to select. If you’re a vendor, it will help you pick the food hall that fits your preferences. It’s a little something we like to call finding the ideal vendor mix.
For instance, my friends would like food with a little kick and some wine to cap off the day. My kids, however, want ice cream, pizza, and churros, in that order.
If your target consumers are families, then there should be vendors that offer family-friendly menus. If your target consumers are tourists, give them the chance to taste foods representing the city or state. If you’re targeting all groups, allocate more time to picking various vendors.
Variety is the spice of life, pun intended.
- Takes Advantage of the Competitive Edge
As much as a food hall provides a thrilling culinary adventure, it still faces competition from other standalone restaurants. This is where you could take advantage of the communal dining area and enforce a secondary idea.
Food halls are usually broken down into three identities- marketplaces, incubators, and community-focused halls. The general rule of thumb is that your secondary idea comes from one of the three. Community-focused food halls integrate some fun into the food experience with activities and live performances, especially during the holidays.
Marketplaces have spaces that are dedicated to selling goods, while others are for food.
Lastly, incubators usually look for vendors that stand for something great from the community.
So basically, although the majority of the food hall is occupied by restaurant concepts, the few novelty shops, vendors, or live audience performances provide a compelling atmosphere to encourage patrons to stick around.
For example, Legacy Hall in Texas has a Box Garden that is used as a concert hall on some days and for beer tasting on other days.
Who We Are
Blue Orbit is a national hospitality and restaurant consulting firm with a team of expert restaurant consultants who take pride in creating new concepts and taking existing restaurants to the next level.
We know that the food hall is a trend that will keep growing steadily. While they provide a sizable, unique restaurant floor space to showcase exquisite menus, developing a flourishing food hall will require a diverse restaurant concept development, and patience to find the right balance.
We are prepared to help you get started on your journey or answer any questions you might have about the process. Feel free to contact us today, and we will be more than willing to assist.
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