19 March 2019

The Foodhall Revolution: A new wave of meeting and eating

Having a keen interest in the food and drink sector (from both a personal and professional perspective!), on Tuesday 5 March, I attended the LPF seminar on “Foodhalls – The New Growth Market”. The evening, which was hosted by Cushman & Wakefield, opened with a presentation outlining the current market, the components of a successful foodhall and the different models in use.

The key takeaways from the presentation included:

Foodhalls v food markets

The distinguishing feature between a foodhall and a food market is typically that a foodhall has a permanent covering making it an all year round venue, whereas a food market generally has an outdoor element, which can make trading challenging during the winter months. Foodhalls also tend to have a communal eating area meaning they are more sociable spaces, rather than traditional food markets which operate as hubs to buy fresh or specialist produce. Foodhalls provide the opportunity for groups to meet and eat different cuisines, perhaps with one member enjoying a pie and another opting for Thai.

“The Holy Trinity”

The three components to a thriving foodhall are considered to be:

  1. Landmark building – A landmark building or unique space has been found to add to the success of foodhalls. Market Hall Victoria has taken residence on the site of the former super-club “Pacha” and Mercato Metropolitano has announced their upcoming move from Newington Causeway to One Mayfair, a Grade I listed building dating back to 1825. Some landlords have attempted to transform vacant retail space within shopping centres into foodhalls, but this presentation considered that these attempts have been largely ineffective due to the nature of the buildings and the shopping centre environment.
  2. Demographic – Appealing to the locals is crucial for a foodhall. The clientele visiting Old Spitalfields in East London, for example, were deemed to be very different to those frequenting The Prince in West Brompton. Ensuring the right feel and trend for the relevant neighbourhood is therefore vital.
  3. Location – Footfall is key. A location close to places of business where people can go at lunchtimes or convene after work is only going to be beneficial for operators. Similarly, finding a location which can form part of, and be accepted by, the local community is essential. Dinerama in the centre of Shoreditch is a great example of this, with visitors often queuing out the door.

Market models

The traditional model is for an owner to lease the foodhall site to a market operator, who in turn enters into short term agreements with each of the food operators. Some landlords have taken on the role of owner/operator and have entered into short term agreements directly with food operators. The agreements tend to run for a period of 3 – 12 months with the food operator paying a small base rent and a higher turnover rent linked to their performance at the site. This allows both the owner and the food operator the flexibility to terminate if the food operator is not performing, with the turnover rent adding additional incentive for both parties to make the site a success.

Following the presentation, there was a lively Q&A with a panel comprised of Andy Lewis-Pratt (CEO, Try Market Halls), Tania Love (Director, FaulknerBrowns Architects), Lisa Meyer (Owner, Yum Bun) and Tim Vailakis (Founder & Director, The Athenian). Hearing the varying perspectives of a foodhall owner, an architect working on the design and fit-out of foodhalls and day to day food operators was incredibly interesting. The debate covered the challenges faced by foodhalls, from adequate extraction/ventilation to ensuring ample seating for the number of visitors on the design side, to creating a sense of community and turnover through the right combination of food operators, to food operators running a streamlined business to cope with the number of visitors through sufficient preparation, ingredients and staffing. The discussion went on to cover why food operators may prefer trading from a foodhall rather than a restaurant, which included the benefits of flexibility, lower costs and opportunities to collaborate. There was also a great emphasis on how an effective social media presence was paramount to a prosperous foodhall.

It was an informative evening, which left me with a taste of how the foodhall movement is set to progress and hungry to try the numerous foodhalls due to hit London over the next 5 years, including the prestigious Time Out foodhall which will be taking up residence in Waterloo’s former Eurostar terminal in 2021.

Jade is an associate in our Commercial Real Estate team.

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