Yes, the first western food halls were located in interesting and sometimes iconic buildings. For example, Chelsea Market in Manhattan was born in the 1990s in a former Nabisco Oreo cookie factory.
Foodhallen in Amsterdam is located in a former train depot. El Nacional in Barcelona was created in a former car parking lot. The socially-conscious Mercato Metropolitano in London is located in a former paper factory. The cavernous Time Out in Lisbon is located in a former fresh food market. Close to home, Hala Koszyki in Warsaw was designed into the former Koszyki market hall. Clearly, these iconic buildings offer the food hall operator a unique and inherently exciting design canvas to create their new dining and drinking environments. Why would a food hall work in a shopping center!?
In Poland, the reasons are many:
Food Halls attract a large number of guests.
Food halls in Poland can attract 1,000 to 2,000 guests per day during the week and 2,000 – 3,000 guests on weekends. Annually, that equates to 500,000 to 600,000 new visitors who, on average, are well-travelled, socially conscious, and willing to pay a premium for quality experiences – the type of consumer shopping centers seek to attract. Communicated differently, while a food hall COULD be constructed independent of shared parking or close to resi, office or other retail, why would a developer NOT gain benefit of the successful ‘spider web’ created by well-operated food halls?
Food halls are large (1,500 - 3,000 square meters) requiring good access to public transportation as customers are often young and drinking alcohol.
Old factories remain plentiful in Poland, but few have good public transportation access and most require significant structural improvement making the food hall cost-prohibitive. Shopping Centers increasingly have more vacant areas due to a shift toward on-line fashion purchases and some over-building in certain markets.
Thanks to Sanepid and Polish weather, Food Halls are generally very expensive to construct.
Some successful summer-only venues in Poland do exist (Nocne Market in Warsaw and 100cnia in Gdansk come to mind). The amplitude in Poland temperatures (very hot in summer, frigid in winter) means that year-round food halls require expensive climate control HVAC systems. Additionally, Food Hall restaurant operators in other markets (US, UK, Netherlands to name a few) need not adhere to the somewhat silly Sanepid requirements that make restaurants and the supporting kitchen and employee areas extremely expensive to build. High investment = high risk making it tough to invest in an abandoned warehouse and much easier to select a proven shopping center location. Shopping centers can reduce the cost of food halls via things like shared bathrooms, shared use of parking areas, and existing, high-quality HVAC systems that are less expensive to adapt.
Shopping Centers desperately need a reason to become more relevant in the lives of its community citizens.
Food Halls give shopping center owners a unique, fun, and social dining and drinking offer for the nearby consumer community – during the evening hours when center footfall normally falls off, and during Sunday’s retail trade ban.
Stacja Food Hall in Galeria Metropolia in Gdansk, Poland is the first large-scale successful food hall in a Polish shopping center. This food hall initially pushed footfall up 15%+. Then, it helped the owner quickly shift the perception of the entire center enabling the owner to lease up an additional 2,000 sqm of space adjacent to the food hall to a bowling and an e-gaming center and also successfully attract the first showcase Sinsay store also taking 2,000 sqm of space. Including the food hall, that is a 6,500 sqm take-up of space in 12 months . . . impressive!
Not all food halls work in shopping centers. The Batory Food Hall in Gdynia will most likely be the first reported food hall failure in Poland. We will get into the reasons behind the success of Stacja and this failure in another feed.