A Guide to Food Halls: Everything You Need to Know

Every industry has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic in some form, but the restaurant industry has faced especially tough challenges. Lockdown restrictions resulted in many small restaurants having to close their doors, and those that survived either couldn't serve their menu to dine-in customers, or they were extremely limited. These restrictions resulted in rapid changes in the restaurant business, many of which seem to be becoming the new normal. A great example is the surge in popularity for online orders, and online food ordering is expected to grow to a $200 billion industry by 2025. In addition to delivery orders, curbside pickup and takeout options have also exploded in popularity.


These developments over the last year aren't the only things that are changing for restaurateurs, though. As restaurant owners have discovered that they can greatly boost their monthly sales and diversify their revenue streams by working with online ordering platforms, many have taken to using ghost kitchens to prepare online food separately from their other food orders to increase efficiency. We're also seeing independent restaurants, bakeries, coffee shops, and more turn to relatively new or unexplored options for getting their food to customers. A noteworthy example is the current rise of the food hall.


What is a food hall?

Basically, a food hall is a setting that's similar to a cafeteria where customers can select from a variety of food vendors and dine in a local community environment with no reservations. While they may sound similar in concept to a food court, there is an important distinction. Whereas a mall food court is typically dominated by fast-food chains, the premise of a food hall is that it serves food from local vendors and independent restaurants, and shopping at these halls generally supports the community. The takeaway is that food halls are great places to see the kinds of cuisine a city has to offer, and you may even be able to find local farmer's market stands and other conveniences in a food hall.


There are two basic food hall options where diners can explore a variety of restaurants. First, there's the multi-concept food hall, which is where the same vendor controls all of the dining options. Operators of these halls are free to try out all varieties and concepts since they basically run the entire thing. Then, there's the multi-vendor food hall, where a landlord basically rents out space to a variety of restaurateurs. These halls may rotate vendors on occasion to encourage variety.

Why have food halls become so popular?

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While they were once a bit of a rarity, food halls are now appearing in U.S. cities like Nashville, Raleigh, D.C., and San Francisco at a rapid pace. There are a few good reasons for their rise in popularity. In a way, it's comparable to the popularity of food trucks in the late 2000s. Customers have a long-standing desire to break away from fast-food chains and embrace local, and possibly healthier, options. Food trucks also gave customers ways to support their communities and socially interact, two things that are now possible at food halls.


Of course, there's also the fact that a food hall makes it easy to take your family or a group of friends out to eat and find options that suit everyone while still eating in the same place. You can get an appetizer from a Mexican stand, choose an entree from a seafood stand, and wash it all down with craft beer from yet another stand if you want. Once you're done with all that, you can even swing by a bakery for some dessert. It's also easy for customers to get their food to go, and some food hall vendors even offer delivery through an online order system.


Food halls are also great for restaurant owners. They tend to have shorter operating hours compared to traditional restaurants, and the smaller location means that you'll have fewer house staff to manage. You'll also have significantly lower start-up costs since there's no need to invest in your own building. If you think working in a food hall may be the best option for you, here are a couple of things you can do to give yourself an advantage.


Invest in a point of sale system.

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You're likely familiar with retail point of sale (POS), and a restaurant POS shares many similarities. Restaurant POS systems will also include a customer-facing display, credit card and debit card reader, scanner for QR codes, and more. The best POS systems will also include an online order system to simplify tickets from your online menu. Delivery and pickup ordering systems such as ChowNow, GloriaFood, iMenu360, Square Online, Restolabs, Toast POS, Upserve, and MenuDrive can greatly simplify the communications between restaurant customers and staff, showing clear and organized tickets for every new order with a convenient kitchen display system.


Arguably the greatest value of POS integration, however, is the detailed real-time analytics it can give you. For example, you can use your POS to track your hottest selling items, and you'll then have a greater incentive to advertise them on your restaurant website and on your social media. A reliable POS system is also an easy way for restaurant operators to identify their best customers and offer even better customer support.


By automatically collecting customer data, like email addresses, from online orders, you can send out promotions or invite your best customers into a loyalty program for discounts, coupons, gift cards, or special offers. All of this can boost online sales and customer satisfaction, not to mention further increase customer loyalty. It's not just about tracking customer information or email marketing, either. You can also track your menu items and ingredients, so inventory management is easier than ever.


Unite your online ordering functions.

Mobile apps are dominating online delivery orders, and if you want to get into that level of food ordering, you'll need a convenient way to improve your workflow. Sure, you can try to get individually involved on each app like GrubHub, DoorDash, Postmates, or UberEats, but the commissions these apps tend to charge can start to eat into your bottom line. What if there was a way to combine all these apps on mobile devices into a custom mobile ordering app for a seamless digital ordering experience without having to worry about high commission rates?


That's the service we provide at Cuboh with our restaurant online ordering system. With our best online ordering system, you'll receive a level of service that lets you combine all of your delivery apps on a single tablet. You'll only be charged a flat monthly fee, and we'll take care of the rest. Integration with our third-party platform for mobile ordering is easy and can usually be done in just a few days. We also provide a self-serve menu management portal that gives you full control over your integrations, if you want to handle things yourself. Either way, you'll have an onboarding specialist to answer any questions you may have at no extra cost.


In addition to combining all your delivery platforms in one convenient location, we also make it easy to view order history, current order status, and sales history, so you can make more informed decisions about your food hall business. Even if you don't have a POS or CRM system, we can connect directly to your kitchen printers to boost your order flow, whether you're getting phone orders or online orders. A one-time setup fee and the monthly fee are all it takes to handle any volume of customers and credit card payments, whether you're a small restaurant or a large chain of restaurants looking to try out a food hall.


We even offer a restaurant partners program where we'll share your restaurant's website or your own custom app on our dashboard, and we can even help you integrate with other apps in your area. This will be great for your marketing campaigns and online presence, and providing the best custom ordering experience will inspire buyers to make repeat orders. Get all of your key features and marketing tools with no headaches, so you can start your food hall stand on the right foot, whether you're selling tacos, sushi, burgers, wine, or anything else new customers in your neighborhood demand. As you get used to running your own stand, you'll likely find even more ways to innovate and reach your target audience.


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