Are Virtual Food Halls and Airports the Next Thing?

When most of us think about the food industry, our minds immediately jump to traditional, brick-and-mortar restaurants. However, COVID-19 has revolutionized the way the industry operates. In addition to increased online ordering, more and more chefs are turning toward unique formats such as food halls. Here's a closer look at how food halls work, where you can find them and how you can use one to your advantage.

What Are Food Halls?

Put simply, a food hall is a marketplace that features small restaurants, shops and vendors. It's important to emphasize that this is different from a typical food court that you'd find in a mall. Unlike food courts, food halls do not focus on national fast-food chains.

The purpose of food halls is to provide convenient access to fresh, restaurant-quality food. Most food hall menus are prepared right there, and some food halls may even come with live entertainment. While you can find mini-restaurants in a food hall, lately these marketplaces have been dominated by ghost kitchens.

What Are Ghost Kitchens?

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, ghost kitchens (which are virtual restaurants that rely on online ordering rather than in-person dining) have escalated in popularity. This is due to the following reasons:

  • Lower expenses: Because you don't have to pay for a large structure or a full staff, ghost kitchens are more affordable to run than regular restaurants.
  • Safer investments: The restaurant industry is known to be risky. By reducing costs, ghost kitchens are usually safer investments.
  • Quick service: Ghost kitchens focus solely on creating and sending out food. Not having to worry about serving customers helps boost speed in the kitchen.

While there are plenty of benefits to ghost kitchens, there is a major downside: it can be difficult to connect with people. Ghost kitchens lack that precious face-to-face interaction, which makes marketing more difficult. That's why an increasing number of ghost kitchen owners are deciding to host their kitchens in food halls.

Why Do Ghost Kitchen Owners Use Food Halls?

There are several benefits to using a food hall to host your ghost kitchen, such as:

  • Customer connection: Food halls offer a touchpoint, or physical location, where ghost kitchens can meet with customers.
  • Saved costs: Many food halls let ghost kitchen owners rent a space, which is a low-cost alternative to buying a kitchen.
  • Marketing help: Whoever is managing the food hall will usually market it, which helps with your virtual branding.

Sometimes, food halls are destinations in themselves. For example, it's common for food halls to be located in parking lots — visitors are generally people who are interested in trying the available food. However, it's becoming increasingly common for food halls to open up in crowded locations, such as airports.

Why Are Food Halls Successful in Airports?

Airports have always been popular for their quick, grab-and-go meals, so it's no surprise that more and more airports are adopting food halls. In fact, Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU) in North Carolina is already working on a virtual food hall, or a food hall filled with ghost kitchens. Here are some reasons why virtual food halls work well in airports.

Minimal Space

It's safe to say that airports are busy locations. With so many people running back and forth, the last thing you need is multiple restaurants hogging up the already limited space. Virtual food halls, on the other hand, consume minimal space — all they require are different kitchens.

High Demand

Airports are filled with people arriving and departing from all parts of the world. Many of these people are hungry for certain types of cuisine. Virtual food halls offer multiple cuisines, all in one convenient location. Moreover, because ghost kitchen use online branding, it's easy to switch up menus.

Quick Customer Service

People in airports are often in a rush, which makes quick customer service essential. To accommodate this need, many airport virtual kitchens have started to provide online ordering (which supports pick-up and even delivery). Of course, to successfully meet online orders, you'll have to manage them properly. Restaurant technology like Cuboh helps brands by letting them track, review and streamline orders with just one tablet. Book a demo today to learn more!

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