Food halls are nothing new internationally with well-known destinations such as Harrods Food Hall in London and Great Food Hall at Pacific Place in Hong Kong. However, the food hall concept has only recently begun to make a name for itself here in the United States and is certainly gaining momentum.
These gastronomical destinations can include numerous food stalls, specialty shops, restaurants, breweries, bars and more. Think of a food court, but with locally owned vendors providing fresh, specialty, gourmet foods and products along with social space people actually enjoy spending time in.
A Bite of Food Hall History
One of the first known food halls in the U.S. was Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market, which opened in 1892. Prior to this time, farmers and butchers set up shop in the city-owned market sheds known as shambles to sell their product to residents of the town. In 1890 the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company purchased the block for its new terminal. Due to the merchants’ refusal to relocate to make room for the new building, an agreement was made to build a new market beneath the train shed and tracks, thus creating the market we see today with nearly 100 vendors.
The U.S. is home to such food halls as Seattle’s Pike Place Market, Atlanta’s Krog Street Market and Anaheim, California’s Anaheim Packing House and even more are popping up across the country. In fact, currently there are more than 25 food halls under construction or in planning stages.
Why the Food Hall Boom?
Now, you may be asking yourself, “What brought on the current food hall boom?” While there are several answers to this question some big factors are the consumer shift to a healthier lifestyle focused on quality, locally grown food and the slow food movement which we described in a recent blog.
Slow food is a growing movement of restaurants, bars, markets, supermarkets and food artisans around the world, who are dedicated to providing food and drink that is sourced from good, authentic and sustainable sources: locally, regionally and internationally.
With that in mind, the food hall trend goes hand-in-hand with the slow food movement as they have similar priorities: providing fresh, sustainable and local products.
Today’s consumer, particularly influenced by millenials, wants to know where their food came from, what goes into it and how it was prepared. In the past, people looking to eat out and socialize usually chose fine dining venues, which can be pricey, and as the pace of life began to quicken, fast-casual restaurants gained popularity.
Consumer trends are steering the restaurant business back toward the traditional European marketplace where customers can pick up groceries, grab a bite to eat and socialize all in one place. Food halls are the perfect alternative with their moderate prices, quality food and social environment.
Food Halls in the Dallas Market
Here in Dallas, “The Market” at the Dallas Farmers Market opened in December 2015. It is 26,000 square feet and contains a mixture of local specialty foods, artisan food vendors, seating areas inside and out, and four anchor restaurants: Rex’s Seafood, Palmieri Café; sauce, stocks and specialty food vendor Stocks & Bondy; and Nammi Coolhaus Vietnamese tacos and ice cream.
CBRE’s Amy MacLaren, Elizabeth Herman and Jack Gosnell are leasing The Market, which is currently 100 percent occupied. It is the first food hall in Dallas followed by a 30,000-sqaure-foot hall planned for Plano’s Legacy West development, which is currently under construction.
Merchants open at The Market include Abundantly Aromatic soap shop; Betty’s Blue Ribbon Fare jams and jellys; Chelle’s Macarons; Doc Popcorn; La Popular tamale house; a small grocer, Market Provisions; Bullzerk gift shop; Cajun Tailgators; Dallas Antique store; Mudhen restaurant; Scardello cheese shop; Si Tapas; San Miguel Imports; and Taqueria La Ventana.
“Food halls are the evolution of the food court, but made more human, urban and accessible,” said Gosnell. “With a variety of food choices available, it’s not only a great way to make everyone in a group happy, but it provides a unique experience for any meal.”
“Food halls like The Market offer businesses such as food trucks or retail kiosks an easy transition to a bricks and mortar space with less overhead and lower rental rates. It’s a great way to test the waters in a bigger space before expanding a business,” continued Gosnell.
Millennials also put a strong emphasis on preserving the history and urban fabric of neighborhoods. With respect to that, developers of food halls typically look for established or historical buildings within a community and preserve the exterior or skeleton of the building while updating the interior to reflect the wants and needs of today’s consumer.
For example, the Ferry Building Marketplace in San Francisco was originally a ferry station for commuters arriving by ferry in the 1800s. Pine Street Market in Portland, Oregon recently opened in the historic 1886 Baggage and Carriage building which was used to store horse-drawn carriages until the early 1900s. Similarly, The Market at the Dallas Farmers Market, although quite a bit newer than The Ferry Building and 1886 Baggage and Carriage, preserved the original structure of Shed 2 and did a full renovation/rebuild on the interior.
“Adaptive reuse is a holistic approach to creating a ‘new’ space while preserving the old,” said Gosnell. “The opportunity to restore and reuse buildings pays tribute to the history of a neighborhood and fosters a sense of pride and tradition for a community. The Market and The Shed are providing a great service to the Downtown Dallas community and we hope to see more projects like this in other neighborhoods in DFW,” said Gosnell.