Some Say The Food Hall Is Dead

The Lempert Report
October 25, 2017

Others say "not so fast"

The food hall phenomenon has officially transcended trendiness according to Eater. Eataly paved the way for a new kind of food hall that seems to becoming pervasive. And before that Rich Melman gave us Foodlife in downtown Chicago in 1993 which is gowing strong and expanding. The number of food halls in the U.S. grew by 37 percent in 2016 — there are now more than 100 of them scattered across the country — and that figure is predicted to double by 2019, according to data from commercial real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield as cited by the Wall Street Journal

A food hall is variety of mini-restaurants and retail food vendors under one roof. Think of the food court in shopping malls back in the 1990s – but bigger, better and more upscale food offerings. 

Fast casual restaurants are in trouble as sales after 6 years of growth have stalled and as rents and wages rise and many are turning to grocerants or meal kits. 

We love food halls. They are fun, exciting, offer us different foods so each person gets what they want vs. a stilted menu where each restaurant concept seems to be a mirror of one another. Anyone want that $9 burger? 

So why is there this talk that food halls are over? 

New York Post food critic Steve Cuozzo recently wrote that “having too many of them, serving too many of the same things, is diluting their one-time specialness.” And Eater reports that while many food hall projects get a boost from satellite locations of famous purveyors — think Brooklyn’s famous pizzeria DiFara, or legendary Katz’s Delicatessen — some critics say these offshoots can be lacking in quality compared to the originals. 

 One of the food halls I am most anxious to visit is Bourdain Market, in NYC where Anthony Bourdain will curate foods from street vendors from across the globe.