Food-away-from-home experts publish their forecasts daily pertaining to when the channel will fully recover. Their content makes for some interesting reading. Being an optimist who worries a lot, as I shared in my post The Interconnectivity Impact, too many factors may obstruct the industry’s comeback.
Based on what I read, a majority of operators surveyed in the past few months indicate the road to recovery will vary significantly by segment. However, last week, one article that piqued my interest provided details of a report by Cushman & Wakefield, a leading commercial real estate services company touting food halls. Food halls, multiple vendors operating unique/artisanal food stalls within a shared space, were clearly a rising star in foodservice pre-pandemic. Cushman & Wakefield predict this sector will bounce back quickly and exhibit robust growth in the aftermath of COVID-19. Their rationale:
1.) Lower operating costs compared to independent restaurants.
2.) Adaptable public spaces prepared to embrace safety protocol (e.g., social distancing).
3.) Consumers will continue to pursue social experiences, especially Millennials and Gen Z.
Cushman & Wakefield’s research team did acknowledge food halls were already viewed as primarily an urban destination, but they are now beginning to branch out to the suburbs, C&U campuses and roadsides. Consequently, as the economy improves and more workers return to their offices, their VP of Retail Research indicates: “Food halls are here to stay.”
Are they? I believe Cushman & Wakefield’s rationale is sound, but as I shared back in July, industry pundits banking on the future of consumer eating trends need to step outside their industry box. They need to analyze the “Big Picture.” Especially, when it comes to food halls in the COVID Era. Big city foodservice ecosystems will be adversely impacted as more people continue to work from home. In addition, if at home productivity remains sustainable, there might be a shift away from densely populated metropolitan areas (e.g., New York, San Francisco, etc.) to smaller cities. Bottomline: A dwindling number of food hall patrons.
Are food halls a future trend?