The Art of Curating Restaurants
The line between food courts and food halls is often blurry.
Americans are more familiar with the concept of a food court than with a food hall. And while “there’s no meaningful difference” between the two versions of a collection of restaurants under one roof, one is associated with fast food and pit stops for shoppers, while the other, a British term, conjures up visions of trendiness.
It’s all in the marketing, said Andrew Moger, CEO/president of Branded Concept Development at the Restaurant Finance & Development Conference in Las Vegas. Moger was part of the rapid-fire Ted-style talks that aimed to impart a lot of knowledge in a short amount of time.
Descriptions of food halls favor flowery language, emphasizing chef-driven concepts and curated spaces. Examples of successful food halls include Eataly in New York City, where an Italian-inspired grocery store’s various departments, such as meat, pasta and bakery branch off into little restaurants and shops. The Shops of Legacy in Plano, Texas, was an example Moger gave.
While some believe the industry is already “over-restauranted,” food halls provide destination locations at a time when “A” locations are far and few between. They also add a perk for captive audiences. By adding a food hall to office or residential complexes, developers can command higher rents from tenants and residents of the buildings, he said.
Food halls embrace what’s new, trendy and upscale casual.
Moger doesn’t see food halls as a flash in the pan. “Food halls are relatively low risk to try out a new menu, new geography, at a smaller capital expense,” he said. But to be effective they must be “curated,” to ensure the quality and interesting mix is kept up.
The trick to thriving with food halls is driving business to the dinner part, he said. To that end, developers are making them dining destination by providing entertainment, such as music or by adding a local brewery.
Retail real estate is still all about location, but it’s also innovation, innovation, innovation.