Most of us are not a stranger to the idea of having several eateries in a close capacity with communal tables; you only have to walk into a shopping mall to see the people fighting for tables to eat their McDonalds, KFC or Pizza Hut.
However, this same principal has suddenly become a huge trend both in the UK and internationally. Food halls are the new ‘in’ thing and are now somewhat classy – a far cry from the halls of Meadowhall, Lakeside or the Arndale centre.
Food halls are popping up all over the county and are quickly becoming a staple for all the UK’s major cities. Food halls in the UK are believed to be pioneered by Manchester’s Altrincham Market that opened in 2014.
London’s ‘Market Hall’ opened last December whilst the Manchester alternative ‘Mackie Mayor’ has been open since 2017. And Liverpool and Sheffield both have 2 food halls -Liverpool’s ‘Baltic Market’ and ‘Duke Street Market; and Sheffield’s ‘Cutlery Works’ and ‘Kommune.’
The great thing about all these halls is that they have given a new lease of life to previously unused and run-down city centre buildings from old shops and indoor markets to abandoned warehouses and nightclubs.
The idea is that there is something for everyone under one roof – numerous eateries, bars, coffee shops – the whole works. The eateries aim to offer ‘restaurant-quality’ food in a more casual setting – much more suited to larger groups or a business meeting.
But why has the food hall suddenly become a huge trend?
The answer may be due the range of choice that food halls provide. Diners are becoming more adventurous and many people are choosing more plant-based diets or have allergies meaning they are gluten or lactose free. This makes group dining difficult when you can’t find one restaurant that suits everyone’s wants and needs. And that’s where the beauty of the food hall comes in – diners can order from whichever eatery they choose but can all eat together.
It may also be the that laid-back atmosphere is drawing more people in. You don’t have to dress up or act in a particular way like you may at a fine dining restaurant. You can happily take the kids without worrying their noise might disturb fellow eaters as the vibe is relaxed and the atmosphere encourages social interaction. You can even take pets in most food halls! Perfect for those of you that hate leaving your beloved dogs behind.
And street food is now a massive trend too. No longer do people want to go out to a small, stuffy restaurant and have a three course meal with a ridiculously expensive bottle of wine that ends up costing over £100. Your average person would now much rather gather some friends for a pint and go to a local street food vender for a good burger, tapas or fajitas. The food hall is the perfect opportunity to do just this and it doesn’t break the bank.
So, there is plenty of reasons why diners may prefer dining at a food hall – but what about the traders – why would they prefer to trade in a food hall where there are lots of competitors under the same roof than have their own restaurant?
It may just be to do with finances. Opening and maintaining a restaurant is expensive, and difficult – it can be both mentally and physically draining. In many food halls the owner of the hall itself fits out the kitchens and much of the equipment and takes care of marketing the hall. They even hire the cleaners to do the dirty work! The eateries also tend to be counter service, so the diners collect their meals from the counters when they are ready – reducing the need for waiting staff too. This all means that food halls open a much better opportunity for young chefs and entrepreneurs to get their foot in the door and start trading their food without as much risk or financial deficit as opening their own independent restaurant.
And it looks like the food hall is here to stay with more and more opening every month around the UK. By next year there could be as many as 18 in London and there are rumours about openings in York and Macclesfield.
I think it’s a fantastic new trend that is here to stay and revolutionise the way we eat out forever. But what’s your opinion? Which food halls have you visited and what did you think? Leave us a comment or let us know on our social media!