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Trend watch: the rise of food halls

Food halls have been opening at a rate that’s made them difficult to ignore.

What’s not to love, from the guest’s perspective? They can pick and choose elements from different vendors to create just the elevated, often chef-driven meal they want. They can sit down in an attractive environment, enjoy a cocktail and a glass of wine with a friend, and maybe even eat off good china while they soak in the hustle and bustle of a busy food market.

From the operator’s side, the format is attractive as well. Tenants share overheard expenses while getting the exposure and traffic that comes from being part of a high-profile venue. For up-and-coming entrepreneurs, it’s a way to break into the business without a lot of capital. For established, even celebrity chefs, it’s a way to meet the people where they are and sell to their food—and their brand—to a broader audience.

New food halls are emerging most often in once-abandoned urban spaces as local governments and neighborhood groups bend over backwards in to pave the way for developers. There’s fierce competition for coveted vendor spaces. For operators looking to nab a spot, this means having a tight concept that’s on-trend and can turn orders quickly—all while offering food quality that’s several notches above standard food court fare.

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