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.
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How Limited Time Offers Can Increase Your Restaurant Marketing Efforts

lto-636x424When seasons change, restaurants look for ways to attract new customers and to encourage current guests to move past their one, favorite dish.

Enter the limited time offer (LTO.)  With the help of LTOs, restaurants can freshen up their identity without overhauling the menu.  That said, LTOs add operational challenges and additional food costs.  To ensure that the campaign sees a positive ROI, follow these simple rules for operations and restaurant marketing.

Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS): If you’re a better-burger chain, don’t make a 180-degree turn with a pizza LTO.  Instead, stay true to who you are.  Small, yet unexpected departures from your regular menu add elements of surprise without causing confusion.  Red Robin, for example, is introducing a new gourmet burger for the holiday season.  They’ve stayed true to their brand while offering something special to mark a particular time of year.

Use LTOs as Tests: Just because you remain true to your menu doesn’t mean you shouldn’t flex your culinary muscle.  LTOs are a great way to express a new side of your brand personality without alienating your core.  LTOs are also fertile testing ground to learn just how far your guests are willing to go.

Be Creative: A few summers ago, every fast-casual and quick-service chain had some version of a LTO salad with strawberries and nuts.  You couldn’t swing a cat without seeing a commercial about the sweet, tangy combination.  The clutter of similar options meant no one owned it and therefore was deemed unsuccessful.

Drive Anticipation: Think of the McRibb and Pumpkin Spiced Latte.  They were both incredibly popular.  When time ran out, adoring fans wrote love letters to McDonalds and Starbucks (respectively) pleading for the menu item’s return.  Now, when each brand announces they’re bringing them back, it creates a frenzy.  Smart!

Prepare the Team: LTOs require a great deal of work before the launch.  Prior to introducing an LTO, make sure you are operationally tight.  Have your staff taste the dish to become familiar with how to describe it to guests.  Create staff Q&As about ingredients, flavor profiles and how long the dish is available.

Engage Marketing: LTOs are some of the best fodder for marketing and public relations.  It’s a timely reason to talk about the brand and to encourage that media to visit the restaurant.  Develop in-store and online creative to bring the LTO to life.  Create engaging social content to drive specific interest in the dish.  Consider creating videos of the chef or GM preparing the dish.  Share flavor profiles and interesting ingredients.  Post to all your social channels and encourage sharing.

LTOs are a restaurant gift – treat them that way!  Get the most of the time the dish is available to inform future menu items and culinary innovation.  When it comes to restaurants, food is your currency.  Make sure you are over-delivering on your LTO promise.

About Sean Baker

Sean Baker has 17+ years marketing the restaurant industry. He is the President/ Partner at IMM, a digital ad agency located in Boulder, CO.
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