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Food Halls: The New Marketplace Combines Hospitality, Retail & Lifestyle

By Brooke Secor

Food Halls are popping up all over the place, and for good reason. Operating costs continue to rise across the county and owners of restaurants, bars and hotels are developing new business practices to counter the impact of skyrocketing rents, the lack of affordable workers and the high costs of food supplies. The new school of development includes full-service restaurants, bars, shopping and plenty of ways to relax and connect with your neighbors while supporting local purveyors by a one-stop shop. Blending traditional sit-down eateries with delis, grocery stores, and highly integrated retail spaces have been trending for the past few years with no signs of slowing down. Retailers struggling to stay competitive in a landscape dominated by online shopping are using hospitality to sell experiences and lifestyles and restaurants are looking for sales beyond the menu. Housing developers are finding it important to incorporate retail, great food and beverages as amenities.  


Over the past decade, the United States has seen an increase in development of urban areas that include more emphasis on mixed-use buildings and innovative marketplaces. Although public marketplaces have long been popular in other countries, the rise of the automobile and plenty of undeveloped space in suburban areas led many to be replaced by modern shopping malls. A generation or two later, malls sit abandoned or are being replaced by “lifestyle centers” that mimic an urban experience. Unifying communities and infusing neighborhoods with businesses that aim to bring local eateries, bars, makers, and craftspeople together is at the heart of urban development and many are doing it all under one roof. Sharing overhead costs allow small business to thrive in part of a larger marketplace while the combined foot traffic leads to increased sales.


It’s no secret that locals and tourists alike have been flocking for decades to the 200-year-old French Market in New Orleans or legendary Pike’s Place in Seattle. Baltimore, St. Louis, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, San Francisco and many other cities have long-standing public markets that have proven to be successful business models and tourist destinations. The newly renovated Union Station in Denver combines a truly functional transportation hub with boutique shopping, gourmet dining, hip bars and a chic hotel just as NYC’s Grand Central has done for 150 years. Furniture retailer Restoration Hardware has opened three restaurants in their stores where every dining table, napkin and plate is for sale.


Dimes in New York City has notably stood out as one a successful recent example of a restaurant selling a lifestyle along with groceries, a deli, and house brand skin care while Eataly has been doing it for years with a growing footprint. Similarly, Beans & Barley in Milwaukee started 40 years ago as health food store that began to offer hot food and has since expanded to a full restaurant that serving many items that can be taken home from their adjoining grocery store and deli.


Taking a cue from public markets across the world, China Live and Tartine Manufactory are two of San Francisco’s favorite places to spend a couple hours indulging in food and drinks with plenty of places to sit with a cup of coffee or tea before you peruse the myriad of curated artisan products and local crafts. If you’re at the latter, visitors can linger in an Eames era chair sipping a Gibraltar and flipping through a copy of Kinfolk. China Live integrates a tea counter alongside a standing cocktail bar just outside the dining room which features eight different food stations, each with specialized equipment for dumplings, charcuterie, and even an earthen Chinese oven. The emporium includes retail space filled with imported culinary ingredients, cooking tools, and upstairs one of the city’s most expensive and exclusive options for fine dining awaits at Eight Tables.


What’s next? We’re looking forward to visting SoHo’s furniture and design store Roman and Williams Guild with the recent addition of La Mercerie, a cafe, bakery and restaurant in the shared space. Fast casual restaurant, Locol, from celebrity chef/restaurateurs Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson is partnering with Whole Foods Market in Silicon Valley. Brewery Bhavana in Raleigh, NC combines a library, florist, dim sum and a brewery in a beautiful space built by friends. Cameron Mitchell Restaurants in Columbus, OH is planning a food hall that will act as an incubator for new restaurants. Food has always been a connector and a social experience. We love this trend and can’t wait to see how it continues to evolve.  

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