Four Reasons to Seek Out Food Hall Opportunities For Your Restaurant Concept

Buying some food at a restaurantConsumers, chefs, & operators alike are sold on America’s hottest dining destination.

The food hall is nothing new – it’s a concept that has long been a part of life in many cultures across the globe.

The American food hall boom started in 2010 when Eataly opened in New York City. Sure, there were markets before that, such as the Ferry Building in San Francisco or Pike Place in Seattle, but Eataly elevated the food hall concept. The grand, sprawling, exciting market sparked a love of something else entirely – something trendy, artisanal and community-driven. Years later, in cities across the U.S., food halls are trendier than ever, with new projects being proposed almost weekly.

If you’re in the restaurant business or looking to break into it, you stand to gain a lot by being part of this vibrant trend. Let’s explore the benefits.

  1. Consumers are all in.

A recent survey by Culinary Visions Panel found that when it comes to food halls, the experience is what draws consumers in.

By nature, a food hall encourages more exploring and socializing. Visitors can walk from vendor to vendor, taking in the sights and smells, all with a coffee or cocktail in hand. They love that there’s so much variety to sample from – and that the food is typically gourmet, local and unique. Food halls often have one or more central seating areas, allowing groups to come together to share their meals.

  1. Food halls are traffic drivers.

Typically, food halls are built in central, high-traffic areas, providing lots of exposure for the vendors inside. As a result, they often become major tourist attractions. The variety and atmosphere offered by food halls also means that even locals come back again and again.

  1. They’re great for testing out new ideas.

Those who already have successful restaurants can leverage a space in food halls as a means for expansion.

Some chefs love to use their food hall outlet as a testing ground for new menu ideas. You can be a bit more nimble and experimental in a food hall setting. Others may be looking for a new challenge, itching for the right opportunity to showcase gourmet, artisanal food in a quick-serve setting.

  1. The overhead is significantly lower than at a full-service restaurant.

This is probably the most obvious benefit for those just breaking into the restaurant game, but it’s relevant for any business that needs to keep costs low.

Your physical space is much smaller, leases tend to be short-term and menus are shorter, which simplifies your supply chain. Often, certain costs are spread across all tenants, such as janitorial costs or the marketing of the food hall itself. In many cases, the landlord is responsible for securing a liquor license that covers the entire space, and it’s not uncommon for them to maintain a bar that serves all guests.

All of these factors allow restaurant concepts to focus solely on their food and their brand, while building up a reputation that puts them in a position to expand in the future.

About Sean Baker

Sean Baker has 18+ years marketing the restaurant industry. He is the President/ Partner at IMM, a digital ad agency located in Boulder, CO.
Facebook Twitter LinkedIn

Team Member Acquisition and Retention Is Single Most Important Marketing Investment

Restaurant manager in a commercial kitchenTurn your employees into your marketing staff in the trenches every single day

Restaurant marketing is often measured by its ability to drive restaurant traffic via promotions, advertising, media coverage and limited-time offers. But it’s the guest experience that keeps a consumer returning – or not.

Think of employees more as marketing, not operations: Because many restaurants structure their workforce more as an output of operations, employees at the restaurant level have little, if any, access to marketing. Restaurants should flip the script making restaurant employees fill more of a marketing function. This not only draws an immediate line between marketing efforts and the important roles crew members play day to day, but it also requires everyone to learn and understand the desired outcome of each marketing investment.

Make employees your biggest marketing investment: Finding good employees is a common plight in the restaurant business. Given the time and energy necessary to find a solid employee, you should strive to treat them well – very well. Consider offering benefits, social gatherings outside of work hours and career growth opportunities. If you see management potential, make it known, then develop a career path to show interest in their professional future.

Encourage feedback from the trenches: Despite marketing’s best efforts, they can’t really understand how a promotion will play out at the restaurant level. Every additional detail or step of a marketing program multiplies the necessary level of effort for the restaurant. For this reason, empower your team members by providing explicit marketing materials, including Q&As and a destination for internal and customer questions. Following the promotion or campaign, poll restaurant staff and use that feedback to inform future programs.

Offer bonuses through marketing: If operations is where restaurant staff salaries must live, consider offering a bonus for the restaurant, or restaurants, with the highest adoption of your marketing programs – and route that bonus through marketing. In the end, the bonus will pay for itself several-fold, while making that staff a fan of the corporate marketing team. It’s a win-win.

Follow through: Whether fully integrating restaurant staff into the marketing department or simply incentivizing the staff to encourage customer engagement, marketing must be consistent to allow the process to resonate. Don’t just poll crewmembers once; do it after every promotion. Don’t just offer a bonus once; make it a constant offering. This is the best way to encourage staff to have a long-term impact on the efficacy of marketing.

When it’s all said and done, the server, crew member or manager who customers interact with must pay off the marketing tools and tactics. If it falls short at any point along the adoption journey, customers may feel burdened and thus will be discouraged from future visits. And worse, those customers may deter others from visiting as well.

About Gina Lee De Freitas 

Gina Lee De Freitas has 15+ years marketing the restaurant industry. She is the Chief Operating Officer/ Partner at IMM, a digital ad agency.
Facebook Twitter LinkedIn