August 19, 2020

Transforming Vacant Spaces into Modern Food Halls

Due to consumers’ increased demand for food quality, choice, and environment, new generation food halls are beginning to redefine and populate the retail landscape. Spaces for food retailers doubled from 7% to 15% in 2019 and are expected to occupy 25% of GLA in 2025. Furthermore, from 2010 to 2017, the number of food halls in the United States increased by 700% from 25 to 118, with the prediction of 300 this year. 

With Covid-19, the retail industry is rapidly becoming more digitalised and customers now visit places for unique dining and entertainment experiences rather than for shopping, leading to many retail tenants leaving shopping spaces. We must therefore start focusing on transforming outdated and unused retail spaces into uniquely bespoke, aesthetically contemporary, and culturally vibrant experiential destinations which will increase footfall and revenue.

However, when implementing such food halls in a vacant retail space, it is important to consider retaining the fast-food food court due to their unchanging popularity and demand. This is because fast-food companies, with their different leasing terms and fixed branding designs and food palette, can look and feel alien within the cultural space creating contrasting  food ethics and design aesthetics that may lessen customer appeal.

How do we retain food courts whilst installing the food hall? 

1. Utilise Unused Retail Units

Rather than demolishing the existing retail units, one must calculate what key elements from the original design can be reused, retained and repurposed to produce a high-quality, cost-effective, and sustainable finish.

2. Separating Food Offers to Suit Different Demographics

Fast food and the “foody” culture may work better separated with different shoppers attracted to the contrasting food palettes and ambiences they create. You must ensure you strategically design a unique food hall without interfering with the existing food court revenue.  

3. Attract New Tenants, Different Customers and Extend Trading Hours

Landlords should offer opportunities for internationally inspired food start-ups as well as local businesses which provide a diverse mixture of locally farmed raw and cooked food and alcoholic and soft drinks. This will attract a wide target audience for all day and evening dining, curating a unique social environment.

4. Provide a Unique Local Offer

Different leasing approaches can be taken by the landlord to suit the needs of and attract certain tenants. This gives the landlord the opportunity to curate the diverse food available and the fitout design to create a truly unique local offer.

5. Creative Freedom

The retail store is a blank canvas not limited by the existing mall aesthetics, leasing, and tenants giving the opportunity to design something dynamic and modern that will appeal to a new target market.

Food halls now go beyond eating and have become a unique and inspiring destination which offer novel experiences and culturally enriched atmospheres for consumers, increased footfall, revenue and real estate value for retail developers and enhanced exposure for participating start-up restaurants. 

Keep an eye out for our next article in which we will be sharing our own success story on how we recently helped a client design a bespoke and inspirational food hall to create the contemporary and unique dining experience that is currently so in demand….