The hottest trend in food in 2023 is “food halls”. Think of these as a very updated version of the mall food courts of the 1980s.
They’re popping up across the country, but are they just another fad food trend or are they here to stay?
The solution for people who can’t agree on dinner
Food halls are growing in popularity for a simple reason: In today’s fast-paced, social-media-enabled world, many people can’t agree on where to go for lunch or dinner.
But at the food hall, one friend can eat some Latin street food, while another can enjoy a delicious burger, and yet another friend can cook some fresh New Orleans Cajun food.
Aaron Mulder is the general manager of Element Eatery, a Cincinnati food hall that opened a year ago. They say if you want it, they probably have it.
“Macaroni and cheese, grain bowls, wings and barbecue, pizza, tacos, you name it,” he said.
And Mulder says you can eat while watching live bands on weekend nights.
“It’s a complete dining and entertainment experience,” Mulder said.
Tiffany Brown and her husband have a booth called San Janeta, where they cook Southern-style mac and cheese every day.
“Here, we try to sell elevated comfort food,” she said. “Our goal was to deliver chef-quality food at a fast pace.”
And LR Hunley, owner of delicious burger stall Tella, said, “Everything here is made from scratch, gastropub style.”
Meals at most stalls cost less than $15, which is a nice break from rising restaurant prices.
And there’s beer—a lot of beer. At its center is the Robert James Tap Room and Distillery, with 48 draft beers that liven up the place on weekends.
“We’re very busy on Fridays and Saturdays,” said taproom manager Rick Welker.
European concept comes to America
David Corson is the director of Fritz Knoebel School of Hospitality Management In denver. He says the food hall concept, which Europeans have enjoyed for decades, if not centuries, offers consumers choice and speed.
“It’s a nice intermediate step between a food truck and a brick-and-mortar restaurant,” he said. “Really, it’s a mall food court on steroids, but with extremely high quality.”
A recent report from Cushman and Wakefield It turns out that there were around 220 food halls in 2019 and since then, 120 more have opened. And it was found that another 127 were under development.
Corson says a food hall certainly can’t be right for every dining experience.
“If it’s a special occasion and you’re making a night out of cooking your own food, you want a sit-down, full-service restaurant experience.”
Ulysses Lutz, enjoying lunch with his family, said food halls are something everyone should try.
“What’s not to like?” He said.