As more and more food halls and communal dining concepts open in London, we look at how these innovative companies are making use of space in both prime and previously unwanted locations.

There has been a massive increase in interest in food halls in recent years, this is partly driven by the success of locations such as Borough Market, and Camden Market. However, it is also part of a wider trend towards social eating concepts which not solely about the food and focus more on the concept as well as the overall consumer experience. The industry is growing rapidly with many new markets due to open in the near future.

Boxpark which is famous for its use of refitted shipping containers is due to open their third London site in Wembley, having already secured site in Croydon and Shoreditch. In addition, Street Feast who run night markets are opening their fifth London site in Woolwich. These operators focus on previously unwanted sites which they can transform into eating destinations.

For contrast, Market Halls is taking up space in Terminus Place near Victoria Station, as well as a 40,000 square foot flagship on Oxford Street which was previously part of the unit occupied by BHS. Additionally, there will be a new Italian food hall opening in a prime location at the City’s Broadgate scheme which is located next to Liverpool Street Station.

These differences in approach show the diversity which food hall occupiers provide. They are able to take on large spaces and create competitive and successful businesses regardless of the initial quality of the space. From Dinerama in Shoreditch which was a car park without running water before the space was taken on by Street Feast, to prime locations such as the Japan Centre near Piccadilly Circus, food hall occupiers are able to take advantage of a wide range of locations.

Additionally, these small food hall spaces allow new restaurant operators and dining concepts to have a more permanent site without having to sign a long-term tenancy agreement for their own restaurant. In addition, these schemes are often very different to other major developments such as shopping centres or retail parks in that they do not necessarily aim to attract major anchor tenants. This is because it is important in the long-term for food halls to have a unique and diverse mix of occupiers in order to attract new customers and to keep the concept fresh and novel.

Speaking to RIB Managing Director Antony Antoniou, he commented; “Food halls are ideal occupiers for a number of landlords looking to let out large units or difficult to manage space. This diversity has allowed them to be looked at favourably by the property industry and often they are the preferred tenants for landlords looking at having a long-term occupant. However, it will be interesting to see whether the food market scene reaches a saturation point where they stop taking on new sites. The major operators are still bullish about their future with more sites throughout London being planned. With the lack of large retail requirements in this current climate, food halls could become an ever more common fixture on our high streets.”

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