Food Halls Pave the Way for Virtual Brand Touchpoints

Being a staple of shopping centers and shared corporate campuses, food halls aren't a new concept for the world of restaurant management. Also known as food courts, these melting pots of multiple restaurants coming together offer hungry customers enough options to pick their perfect pairing.

Now that the landscape of dining has changed forever following a lockdown that seemed to last an eternity, food halls are seeing new types of clients looking to rent out available kitchen spaces. Franchises are no longer the only ones interested in showcasing their menus to the crowds that food halls muster.

New and Old Concepts Collide

Depending on where you spent your time shopping, you may have instant flashbacks of neon lights and white tile when someone mentions a food hall or court. Children excited they can choose whatever they want while their parents got something else and busy shoppers just wanting a quick snack while between stores all filled the tables.

When those tables got removed and dining on-site was no longer available, many of the food hall kitchens transitioned smoothly into being pickup and delivery only as they didn't own or maintain the dining area itself. The kitchen could still be operated and your standard food hall restaurant turned into a pseudo ghost kitchen overnight.

Ghost kitchens, also known as dark or virtual kitchens, are kitchens that operate solely through off-premise dining and fulfill orders through delivery and pickup. The evolution of restaurant tech has made it easier than ever to partner with delivery and ordering platforms, letting the restaurant focus on creating more quality and value for customers.

Ghost and virtual kitchens became extremely popular for multiple reasons. New restauranteurs and existing franchises alike are taking advantage of:

  • Lower expenses: No dining area means less building cost and savings on equipment such as dishes and menus.
  • Fewer staff being required: Without wait staff, a virtual kitchen can operate just on the cooks, someone to take orders to the front and a manager to oversee production and handle logistics.
  • Minimal time commitment: Many food halls and commercial kitchens have options for restaurants to rent space on a month-to-month basis, allowing kitchens to test their luck in new markets or with new menu items and simply close up shop if things don't get well.
  • Low-risk experiments: Some kitchens have such a long legacy and passionate customer base that the idea of adding a new meal option will never be met with unbiased palettes. By setting aside some equipment to use in a food hall ghost kitchen, they can try new concepts or entirely new branding to get fresh perspectives and feedback.

The virtual kitchen trend quickly found it's way into food halls as some companies chose to completely leave the location, leaving open stalls available for the taking. Ghost kitchens who have never had a physical location can leverage this opportunity as a touchpoint to interact with their customers more.

Touchpoints Bridge the Digital and Physical World

A majority of the brands we utilize in our daily lives are ones that we've never had interactions with outside of placing an order online or grabbing the product off of the shelf while shopping. Restaurants have to take it a step further and create a brand image, amazing food AND be able to connect with customers and bring them back.

Restaurants can be a risky business endeavor thanks to the sheer amount of competition that exists. What sets one pizza place apart from the other one across the street? Ask locals and they'll tell you exactly why you should eat at Sal's instead of Toni's, and it often comes down to their experiences when interacting with the staff.

Virtual kitchens lack that final point, the one that so often cements the connection a customer builds with their favorite eatery. Food halls help to create touchpoints, or physical locations, for these ghost kitchens to have a low-cost way to meet customers in person and share their passion with them.

Adding this personal touch takes the digital marketing and social media presence created by the brand to and let's it be validated by the customer firsthand.

While the "new normal" we've all been adjusting to is starting to revert back to the norm of dine-in experiences, food halls were surprisingly ready to tackle the changes by going virtual themselves! The kitchens and stalls that make up a food hall tend to be separated from one another enough that it lets each kitchen have their own little staging area for pickup and delivery orders.

Whether a kitchen uses a food hall's specific app or their own restaurant SaaS for taking orders, the symbiotic relationship between the two has never been stronger. The next time you find yourself near a food hall, pop in and see how many new restaurants are setting up shop.

You'll be happily surprised at the new inventions being made by small kitchens who just now have the opportunity to bring their food to the public.

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