What is a Food Hall?

While practically every type of business was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic last year, the restaurant industry faced particularly rough challenges. Lockdown restrictions made it difficult for restaurateurs to serve in-person customers in dining halls, and that's if the restrictions didn't completely eliminate dine-in options. Most restaurants were forced to rely on delivery options and curbside pickup, and plenty of small restaurants were forced to close their doors when they were unable to effectively adapt to the changes. Since the coronavirus, however, we've seen plenty of changes in how the food industry caters to customers, such as the seemingly permanent increase in demand for online orders.


In addition to the rise in popularity of online ordering platforms and food delivery, we're also seeing a major increase in customer traffic to food halls. While the name may sound similar, it's important to point out that food halls are absolutely not the same thing as a mall food court. While food courts in shopping malls primarily focus on large fast-food chains, a food hall is a marketplace that contains local mini-restaurants, assorted food shops and vendors, and even services like a butcher shop. Everything from a food hall menu is generally prepared fresh to order as well, and they may even feature live entertainment for diners.


The rise in popularity for these halls is comparable to the rise of food trucks in the late 2000s, when customers were trying to move away from large fast-food chains and support local eateries, while also receiving fresh (and possibly healthier) food. Food halls are also popular with entrepreneurs who aspire to become restaurant owners since the startup costs to get involved with one are significantly less than constructing or renting your own brick-and-mortar restaurant. The landlords of food halls also generally provide the equipment you'll need to run your stand, making the daily work in a stand similar to that of a ghost kitchen, although halls will serve dine-in customers in addition to filling takeout and delivery orders.


If getting involved with a food hall stand sounds right for you and your vision for customer service, here are a few tips to give you your best chance at success.


Install a restaurant point of sale system.

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A POS (point of sale system) is important for any business that sells products, and it's hard to overstate the particular importance of a restaurant POS. It's easy to confuse these systems with a retail POS system, which would be equipped with a cash drawer, credit card and debit card reader, customer-facing display, barcode scanner, and more. A restaurant POS will be equipped with many of the same functionalities, but it will also include an online food ordering system. Ordering systems like ChowNow, GloriaFood, Restolabs, Upserve, MenuDrive, and iMenu360 all do a great job of simplifying communications between customers and kitchen staff. All orders will go through the POS, which will automatically create tickets for the kitchen, dramatically cutting down on order errors.


This is just scratching the surface of the true value of a POS system, however. They track everything from sales and payroll to your most popular menu items and most used ingredients. If your quesadillas are extremely popular, for example, your POS will let you know, and you'll have incentives to stress them on your online menu and in your on-location menu as well. You can even use your restaurant POS system to collect customer data, which makes it easier to provide high-quality customer support. You can save a customer's favorite orders in your system and expedite their ordering process the next time they use your restaurant online ordering system. Quick access to customer data also makes it easier to create lists for things like email marketing campaigns, and you can even contact your best customers about promotions that might interest them, coupons and discounts, or even enroll them in customer loyalty programs.


Combine your delivery platforms.

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To keep up with the high demand for food delivery, there's a good chance you'll be working mobile ordering apps into your online ordering system. Such mobile apps may include Grubhub, DoorDash, Uber Eats, Seamless, or another similar widget. A potential downside of working with these mobile apps is that they generally charge commissions on sales, which might eat into your profits too much, especially if you're just starting out.


Wouldn't it be great if there was a way to combine all your delivery mobile apps on a single tablet or device? That's the exact service we offer at Cuboh through our online ordering system. With Cuboh, you'll just have a flat monthly fee to take care of all your delivery systems, instead of having to worry about separate commission fees for each one. We offer a restaurant partners program as well, where we'll share your restaurant app on the Cuboh dashboard, and you'll also be able to integrate with other apps in your area. No matter the size of your restaurant or the number of clicks you typically get on your restaurant's website, partnering with us will give you a boost in brand recognition.


Optimize each menu to your advantage.

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A big advantage of setting up in a food hall is that you'll be getting consistent foot traffic, in addition to the online orders you get on your own website or through apps, so there are plenty of opportunities to earn profits. In order to entice as many customers as possible, you'll want to draw attention to your stand and use your menu to your advantage. Consider posting QR codes on your stand or on your in-person menu that customers can scan to get special offers or access to newsletters. Customer experiences in your hall can all make great stories to share on your social media pages as well, so this helps take care of your digital marketing.


You'll want to follow best practices for online menus also, such as emphasizing your most popular items, limiting your online selection to about 20 items, and optimizing your restaurant website for mobile-friendliness, so it's easy for customers to make an order when they find you in local search results.


Overall, a food hall is a great choice for people who want to experiment with running a restaurant or food shop at low costs, and you can even save on your general maintenance needs since each stand in the hall typically shares in these costs. By employing a few good tactics to attract customers, you'll see first-hand why these locations are becoming so popular throughout the U.S.



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