Remember when the cool thing to do was hang out with your friends at the mall? Well, I do. In my preteen and teenage years there was nothing more fun than spending a Saturday afternoon in the food court people watching and eating as many samples as possible. Fast forward a few years and the food court concept has gone from low end chain restaurants to high end dining experiences that attract foodies of all ages. With just a slight change in name and a significant change in quality, high end food halls have become a trend all across the country.

               Unlike a traditional food court, the size of food halls are smaller, ranging anywhere from 5,000 to 40,000 square feet. These food halls are getting smaller and compact so they are easily able to fit into existing urban spaces. Food halls are also become more prevalent in mixed-use residential buildings. For example the food hall at Essex Crossing. Essex Crossing is a huge development going up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and one of the reasons so many tenants were attracted to this space is because of the high end food hall being built on site. Food halls are also popping up in commercial buildings. For example, The Food Hall at Main and Rusk which is set to open in the JPMorgan Chase building in Houston Texas, or Hudson Eats the “all-star” food hall at Brookfield Place in Lower Manhattan that houses stalls like Blue Ribbon Sushi, and Umami Burger. In general, these food halls are becoming a key amenity in both commercial and residential buildings, attracting people who are looking for a place to live, work, and dine in a unique way.

               Upscale food halls are more than just a place to grab a quick bite, they are treated as a true destinations. Everything from vendor placement to seating is thoroughly thought out, providing guests with an immersive culinary experience, and whether there is a constant theme, or a mixture of eclectic cuisines, high end food halls create the perfect place for consumers to explore new dining options at the highest quality.

               Looking at the future of dining, I think we are just getting started with this concept of upscale food halls. If curated correctly food halls draw in a ton of revenue, and there is no doubt we will start seeing more and more of these popping up across the country, especially with the rise of urban development. Although I will always have a special place in my heart for the free samples of PF Chang’s bourbon chicken given out at the Westchester Mall, the foodie in me is excited to see a popular shift towards well-executed, high end food halls.