© Maya Hayuk

South Florida’s Food Hall Boom

Food halls have been around for years, but South Florida only recently got a taste of the trend.

Since November, five food hall concepts have debuted in the tri-county, and that number is expected to double by the end of 2018. These food halls have multiple restaurants in one space, typically with a central dining room, and South Florida eateries are signing on for the opportunity to open in busy spots where they don’t have to fork up more rent for extra space.

“Real estate is the barrier to entry in Miami and a lot of entrepreneurs,” said Della Heiman, CEO of the Wynwood Yard. “Entrepreneurs are finding more creative entry strategies to get into the market and food halls are part of that.”

Heiman, whose Wynwood Yard has served as an incubator for young restaurant concepts since 2015, is creating another space for culinary innovation at her wellness-focused food hall at the Civica Center in Miami’s Health District.

“You don’t have to worry about a parking lot, you don’t have a lot of wasted square footage, you’re focusing on your food quality and that’s an advantage,” said Darren Tristano president of Technomic, a Chicago-based food industry research and consulting firm. “It’s a lower investment cost for a restaurant to open in a food hall.”

And as e-commerce and streaming services eat away at the profits of entertainment venues, malls and movie theaters, landlords hope to feed off of the growing popularity of restaurants by building food halls in their developments. Restaurants and food sellers now fill 20 to 40 percent of space at most shopping centers, up from 10 to 15 percent in 2008, according to CBRE.

“For developers, it’s a profitable way to get business right now,” Weikel said.

So, take the rising number of U.S. consumers who consider eating at restaurants as a form of entertainment (67 percent of Americans, according to Technomic), stir it in with the trend of fast-casual restaurants outpacing other concepts in profit growth, and add in the foot traffic from Florida’s growing population and year-round tourism — and voilà, you have the recipe for South Florida’s food hall fad.

“The juxt of it is that consumer behaviors have shifted,” said Kelly Weikel, director of consumer insights at Technomic. “Restaurants aren’t just for food any longer. They are now the prime destination for consumers when they want to socialize and spend time with friends.”

Photo credit: South Florida Business Journal

What’s open, what’s being served up soon

Asian food hall 1-800-Lucky kicked off the string of recent South Florida food hall openings with a November debut in a 10,000-square-foot space in Miami’s Wynwood. Then, Casa Tua Cucina at Saks Brickell City Centre opened in downtown Miami in December. Treats Food Hall celebrated a January opening at the Aventura Mall. Then in February, La Centrale in downtown Miami and Grandview Public Market in West Palm Beach opened within days of one another.

Photo credit: South Florida Business Journal

There are six more food halls announced for Miami-Dade County, including Heiman’s Jackson Hall, opening in 10,000 square feet in the Miami Health District in about six weeks.

The 50,000-square-foot food hall Central Fare is planned at an 11-acre mixed-use project that includes a transit hub for the Brightline passenger train in Miami. St. Roch Market from New Orleans is expected to debut in Miami’s Design District early this year. The Citadel food hall is scheduled to open in Miami’s Little River district. Two more food halls, Lincoln Eatery and Time Out Market, plan to open their doors in Miami Beach this year, too.

“Miami is an incredibly vibrant, diverse city and has been cementing its place on the culinary map and in the art world for several years now,” said Didier Souillat, CEO of Time Out Market, which is opening the first U.S. location of his concept at 1601 Drexel Ave. in Miami Beach. “This is also where both locals and visitors of Miami have a real appetite for newness, quality, cultural and authentic experiences and enjoying life … that’s why Miami is such a fantastic city for Time Out Market.”

When La Centrale debuted at Brickell City Centre in downtown Miami, managing partner Jacopo Giustiniani had the same feeling about Miami’s rising culinary reputation after traveling far and wide to sample food halls from all over the world.

“Miami has a great momentum,” he said.

Is it a food hall or a food court?

Food halls and food courts are often compared, but there are a few differences. Food halls typically have multiple fast-casual concepts, while food courts are filled with fast food, or quick-service stations. Food halls also typically have a distinctively local flare, with eateries from the area at its stations.

The biggest difference is that a food hall looks and feels more like an entertainment destination.

“There is a much more interesting draw and appeal in going to a food hall than going to a food court, and sometimes even a regular restaurant as well,” Technomic’s Weikel said.

Take for instance 1-800-Lucky. The Wynwood eatery has eight Asian restaurant concepts stationed around 280 seats, a record store that sells about 300 pieces of vinyl a day, a convenience store, two bars, a DJ booth, a private screening room and karaoke. You can spend a day there.

To curate the restaurants that have signed one-year leases at 1-800-Lucky, co-founder Sven Vogtland and his partners traveled to California, New York and to just about every Asian place he could find in Southeast Florida.

“We ate at every Asian place from Palm Beach to the Keys,” Vogtland said. “These are all personal favorites that were hand-picked. We didn’t settle for anybody. The goal is that everyone is successful and that we see this through for many years to come together. If they’re not happy, they have a way out, and vice versa.”

With 1-800-Lucky, Vogtland and partnersAlan Drummond and Gabriela Chriboga have brought more culinary innovation to the Wynwood Arts District, where some of South Florida’s most popular concepts got their start. The team behind 1-800-Lucky also launched Coyo Taco in Wynwood. Nearby, Zak the Baker got its start. Panther Coffee launched in the Arts District, too.

“We’re really proud of what Sven has done here,” said Albert Garcia, vice chairman of the Wynwood Business Improvement District. “Concepts like 1-800-Lucky transcends the mold for what a bar or restaurant is and raises the bar for the community.”


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