With competition heating up among fast-casual concepts, some brands are looking to food halls instead of traditional restaurant formats for development and growth. Unlike food courts, which are conventionally home to big chain restaurants, food halls feature mostly local fast-casual vendors to showcase the diverse flavors of the neighborhood.
These food hall vendors typically specialize in a variety of unique specialty dishes, such as fried chicken poutine at the kroft (Anaheim, CA), slow-smoked brisket at Mighty Quinn’s Barbeque (New York), Wagyu beef bánh mì at Saigon Sisters (Chicago) and Korean tofu tacos at TaKorean (Washington, DC). The type of menu items found in food halls aligns with fast-casual values, which typically include a focus on high-quality, local ingredients. Here are some reasons why fast-casual operators are looking to food halls for growth:
- Freshness—fresh ingredients are a key feature at food halls, where like-minded fast-casual concepts tout handcrafted meals made with seasonal, farm-fresh and local ingredients.
- Reach—with so many diverse options under one roof, food halls are popular spots for group occasions because each person can order what they want. Also, because some food halls have grocery and retail areas, units enjoy steady business throughout the day, not just at mealtimes.
- Cost Savings—with little to no build-out and a small space, food-hall units are less risky to open than brick-and-mortar sites because of their low investment.
Emerging fast-casual concepts can develop and strengthen their brands by establishing a presence in food halls. The neighborhood atmosphere and wide-ranging cuisines in food halls create a comfortable environment for customers with varied palates.
Additionally, food halls can entice visitors to try new fast-casual establishments since there is a multitude of dining options in the same space. With at least 15 food halls in development across the U.S., fast-casual operators should get involved with these food halls to strengthen their business in an existing market or test their brand in a new area without the risk of launching a full-size location.