Not Your Mother’s Food Court

Food Halls Taking Over!

‘Fall’, ‘collapse’, ‘failing’, and even, ‘dying’. These are just a few of the words that have littered headlines the past year, describing the closure of America’s malls and vacant retail spaces. But with the death of brick and mortar stores, one section of retail has thrived—food.

Food has become more than just daily sustenance; people want to experience their food in exciting ways. In 2008, food trucks were all the rage, a trend that is still visible today. Almost ten years later, food halls are taking over the US, one city at a time.

Thanks to the perfect storm of the Food Network, millennials, and “foodie” culture, the food hall trend has skyrocketed in the US market. Per Cushman & Wakefield, the number of existing food hall projects increased 37.1% in the first nine months of 2016. This trend has left its mark on cities like New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles and is moving its way into Austin, Washington D.C., Miami, and Charleston in 2017.

But what is the difference between the food courts of yore and these newfangled food halls? Why quality, of course. In food halls, you won’t find the stereotypical hot dogs that have been turning on rollers for the past week or slushies with Red Dye 40 like you would a traditional food court. Instead, you will find artisanal enchiladas and hand-rolled chicken dishes.

With a new mission and business model, food halls can escape the confines of a mall food court, bring quality food to surrounding communities, and offer a restaurant incubator-like setting for new chefs.

Here’s Why Food Halls Are Taking Over:

Space Revival

Food halls can be a range of sizes, making blueprints malleable and transitional for just about any location. Not all halls have the sheer size of Chelsea Market (clocking in at 165,000 square feet) or Eataly (not looking too shabby with 50,000 square feet), others can hold their own with smaller spaces like the Smallman Galley (with 6,000 square feet) or the Pennsy (at 8,000 square feet).

Because they can fit a variety of spaces, food halls can be located anywhere that a space is open. For example, empty mall anchor stores can be a good foundation for larger food halls, while the ground floor of office buildings can provide adequate space for smaller models. If there is an available space, food halls can fill and occupy it, giving new purpose.

The ability of food halls to morph into any shape or size free space allows them to focus on the root of their business: providing quality food to the community.

Eataly

Community

Interestingly enough, food halls are not a new concept. It’s no surprise in the United States that this trend first started to take hold in the cultural mecca of New York City. According to Cushman & Wakefield, a real estate powerhouse, New York City accounts for more than 25.4% of all United States food hall projects.

With a flexible location, food halls bring together different palettes, diets, and preferences, all under one roof. Because of the vast offerings in a single space, it creates opportunities for the surrounding community to gather. In the U.S., food halls have gravitated toward cities, because they give office workers a haven to snag lunch, coffee, and a break from their cubicle. If they offer seating, food halls will often use communal tables because the dining space is like no-man’s land. Whether you’re a fan of communal dining or not, this type of seating arrangement leaves the decision up to the patrons whether they want to mingle or stay in their proverbial bubble.

Food Hall Spread

Operator-Friendly

New businesses can drive traffic to neighborhoods and often increase profits of other businesses in the area as well.  The business model of a food hall is no different. These food halls present a lower risk option for both developer and hopeful restaurateur, with quick customer turnover and fewer startup costs. While building owners have the ability to charge a higher rent rate (taking popularity into consideration as well), that rate is still less than the cost of an entire restaurant for a chef just starting out. Instead of a sole tenant being responsible for the cost, utilities are often split, lessening what a typical restaurant would pay. Food halls serve as a restaurant incubator for up-and-coming chefs that maybe aren’t quite ready to break out all on their own.

Spices

While the quality of food halls is much different than that of a food court, the concept is similar. The beauty of food halls is that they aren’t restaurants; change is a part of the norm. These are places where food-lovers of all kinds can gather together and enjoy new fares daily. The cyclical fashion of always bringing in new talent, food, and customers is exciting for the restaurant industry, even when other sectors of retail seem to be flopping.

With this trend still sweeping the nation, the list of cities with food halls continues to grow, check out this list to see if one is headed toward you!

Need help outfitting your food hall? Call our customer care representatives at 1-800-986-5352 for the latest trends in commercial furniture and what would work best in your establishment.

Drink Trends You Need To Know About for 2017

 

When it comes time to order a drink, some bar-goers stick with their tried and true favorite cocktails, while others are more interested in following the trends and expanding their horizons when they walk into the bar. These trendsetters seek out the latest and greatest in hopes of informing others of the most recent concoctions or getting that perfect Instagram picture to share with their friends. In the interest of luring these trendsetters into your bar and staying relevant in a competitive industry, we take a look at the trends rising to the forefront of the cocktail industry.

1. Vodka is Back-Vodka Cocktails

For a while, Vodka was frowned upon but is now making its way back into serious cocktails on bar menus this year. Bartenders are embracing this drink as a flexible and approachable ingredient choice. Vodka goes with more than tonic and bartenders are using their creativity to create a wider selection of Vodka based drinks.

Part of this resurgence can be credited to more interesting vodkas being produced. Vodka with complexity is making its way into the market and mixologists are responding. Brands such as Belvedere Unfiltered, St. George Green Chile and Citrus, and Absolut Elyx challenge the idea that vodka is an odorless, colorless, and tasteless liqueur.

2. Banana is the New Black-Banana Cocktails

Since 2016, Banana has been making its way into cocktails menus across the country in many forms. Whether it is as a liqueur, spirit, or actual fruit puree, don’t be surprised to see it in your drink. Bananas are available year-round and lend themselves well to being used in cocktails. In light of the recent tiki renaissance that has been happening over the past few years bananas have been gaining ground in bars everywhere including Chicago’s Lost Lake.

3. A Fresh Buzz-Coffee Cocktails

You may already be seeing this morning favorite making its way into the craft beer industry, and cocktails are not far behind. Soon you will see vodkas and whiskeys being bottled with cold-brew coffee as part of the mix. This is not the first time coffee and alcohol have been paired together. Who can forget classics like Irish coffee, or Kahlua and coffee but modern coffee cocktails go beyond adding a bit of booze to a cup of coffee and calling it a drink.

This combination of coffee shop and bar makes perfect sense. In many restaurants, bartenders are also in charge of making espresso drinks, and it is a good use for coffee that isn’t served during the day. Both the coffee and bar businesses are high-profit, but they’re only high profit for a short period of the day. So expect to see more and more of these dual purpose drinks being served from behind the same doors.

4. Tequila Mockingbird-The Tequila Resurgence

Americans are consuming more tequila than ever before.  In fact, tequila ranks right behind whiskey as the most popular distilled spirit in the United States. The trend is being driven by the production of higher-end tequilas such as Fortaleza, Casa Noble, and Astral. As a result, more cocktails that are tequila-based are making their way onto bar menus around the country.

The prevalence in tequila will leave its mark on the cocktail industry with a new resurgence of other agave based drinks such as Mezcal, a drink made from the Espadin agave plant that produces a unique smoky flavor that differentiates it from tequila.

5. Farm to Shaker-Fresh Ingredients

Over the past few years the country has turned its focus towards fresher and healthier ingredients in their meals, a trend which is beginning to catch on with cocktails as well. The days of sweet and sour mix being used for speed, efficiency, and flavor control are on their way out. Today’s bartenders and bar managers are embracing the idea of fresh, healthy ingredients being used to take their cocktails to the next level.

In certain areas of the country where it is summer year round, expect to see cocktails with local flavors highlighting the citrus, fruit, veggies, and herbs, readily available and indigenous to the area.

6. Storytelling

More and more drinkers are focusing on the experience of drinking and less on just getting a buzz. Consumers increasingly want a story behind their cocktails and bartenders are responding by using regional spirits brewed using ancient recipes, or by creating cocktails to match the drinker’s own recent experiences.

People are fascinated by drinks and the bartenders who serve them. In 2014 Jack Daniels released a series of videos on Youtube highlighting the craziest tales bartenders around the country had to share. By doing this they were giving consumers the stories and history they wanted while making them synonymous with their whiskey.

7. Interpretive Drinking-Performance Cocktails

The best bartenders have always understood the usefulness of theater, without going over the top (we’re looking at you Tom Cruise). So in 2017 be prepared to see more and more theater in the glass, as mixologists seek out more unique and interesting ingredients.  Ingredients like the Butterfly Pea flower, a flower that is ph sensitive and will change the color of a drink when mixed with citrus. Another flower to be on the lookout for is the Szechuan Button, an edible flower that delivers an electric hit to the consumer when chewed on. The flower is electrifying and hits you on a molecular level causing you to experience mouth tingling.

8. Have You Seen This Cocktail-Nameless Cocktails

One of the strangest yet most intriguing trends of 2017 is cocktails being based on emotions. Some bars, like Trick Dog in San Francisco, are forgoing names for their cocktails in favor of moods, scents, color, and even astrological signs. Order a red drink to stimulate confidence or black for discipline. Bars that are using scents such as smoked pine or cut grass, are doing so to evoke nostalgic feelings of certain times of the year or places with fond memories to keep them customers coming back for more. It might not be a trend for all bars but expect to see it popping up more and more throughout the year.

9. The Up and Comers- New Centers for Creativity

Sure, Manhattan will always be one of leaders in cocktail trends. But don’t count out emerging cities like Brooklyn, Pittsburgh, Nashville, Charleston, San Diego, and Houston. These cities have cheaper rents and thirsty young people are flocking to them. With the influx of young adults, be looking for new bars and new cocktails to make their way to the forefront of the industry.

10. Frosé All Day-Frozen Drinks Will Go High End

Frozen drinks have always been a fun way of changing up drinks but recently bartenders have been upping the frozen drinks game, translating into expertly prepared frozen cocktails. It started with frosé, which is exactly what it sounds like, a frozen Rosé drink. But now the frozen drink industry has taken off in a way it never has before. Upscale drinks are being turned into refreshing frozen libations with the use of tools like liquid nitrogen, turbo icemakers, and the always dependable slushy machine.

11. Guilty Pleasure Drinks

For a time, 70s, 80s, and 90s style cocktails were not an option in craft cocktail bars. They were frowned upon for their use of artificial ingredients and thought to be too sweet and unsophisticated. Bartenders are now revisiting these guilty pleasure drinks and re-imagining them with fresh, quality ingredients and transforming these decade old cocktails into delicious, yet well-executed drinks. Craft cocktail bars around the country are now showcasing adaptations on these retro drinks and you’ll probably be seeing a lot more of them in the coming year.

While a nameless cocktail might not be the right fit for your bar, you might want to consider adding a few of these trends to your bar’s menu. Staying relevant in this industry can mean the difference between a great year and being forced to close your doors. Experiment with adding a few vodka based cocktails to your lineup or maybe even a color changing mixture to gather a few ooh’s and ahh’s. If you are willing to do so you will have a better chance staying at the industry forefront in 2017.

Save

A First Look at Cooper & Elliot – Our Newest Urban-Industrial Restaurant Seating Styles

Tired of the same old restaurant seating look?  You know the one: the square black frame with a metal ladder-back and vinyl seat?  Don’t get us wrong, that look is classic and will be around forever; but, the reason it’s a classic is because almost every restaurant has it.  If you want your dining room to stand out from the sea of competition, we’ve got two brand new seating options for you.

 

Cooper urban industrial chair and barstool

Cooper

Clean lines, a sleek black tubular steel frame, and a contoured ash seat are what make the Cooper one of our best looking styles yet.  The wide ergonomic seat design with a waterfall edge ensures diner comfort, while the heavy steel frame is built to last in even the busiest dining rooms.  Cooper also features one of the latest hottest upcoming trends in restaurant seating: the round tube frame, which adds a modern minimalist look while maintaining the structural integrity of the chair through the use of heavy gauge steel.

 

Elliot Urban Industrial Chair & Barstool with Distressed Hand-Sawn Wood Seat and Back

Elliot

Elliot will transport you back to the beginning days of the industrial revolution!  Featuring a solid wood seat and weathered iron frame finish, the Elliot speaks to a simpler time when furniture was hand crafted, and was built to last.  If you have a rustic concept with reclaimed wood or distressed wood tables, the Elliot is a perfect compliment that adds the industrial flare with its raw steel looking frame.

Save

Save

Save

Trends within the Food and Restaurant Industry for 2016

2016 Trends in the restaurant industry

 

At the beginning of each year, it’s exciting to think about what it will bring. For those in the restaurant industry, staying current with predicted trends isn’t only about excitement, but also the need to stay relevant and competitive in a cutthroat industry. Two popular companies that provide the latest trends in the industry each year are Technomic, a food research and consulting firm, and the National Restaurant Association, a national food service trade association. Both have published their lists for what they expect the food and menu trends to be for 2016. Here is a summarized version of both reports, in addition to a few up and coming trends based on our conversations with restaurant owners nationwide.

Snacks versus full blown meals

Diners are moving toward snacks and small plates instead of full dinners

In today’s fast paced world, grabbing a snack is much more efficient than sitting down for a full blown meal. It seems as if everyone is always on the go, being pulled into many different directions throughout the day at work and at home. In fact, according to Technomic in their study on snacking, 51% of today’s consumers say they snack at least twice a day with a third of consumers saying that they snack more frequently than they did just two years ago. 45% even reported that they replace one or two meals a day with a snack. In addition to this increase in snacking, consumers are changing their idea of what they consider a snack.  The report found that innovative, healthy and easily portable snacks, in variety, are what consumers want. MCDonald’s snack wrap, Uno Chicago Grill’s house made guacamole and chips, Houlihan’s pot roast sliders, and P. F. Chang’s steamed shrimp dumplings are all great examples of this.

Technomic suggests offering snacks driven by savory flavors with high protein, or ones that are sweet and spicy.  With snacking on the rise, offering these items could be a great way to drive traffic into your restaurant and increase your sales.

High quality fast food

Customers are switching to high quality fast food like bowls with fresh ingredients over cheeseburgers and fried foods

With the popularity of fast-casual restaurants making a huge impact on the restaurant industry, customers have now been exposed to higher quality ingredients like locally sourced produce and hormone-free meats that they can get quickly at a reasonable price. Places like Panera Bread, Rubio’s Fresh Mexican Grill, Firehouse Subs, and Chick-fil-A are all examples of restaurants already offering these quality ingredients to the public with a short time from order to table.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, American adults are choosing healthier foods. People are making better use of the Nutrition Facts Panel found on most food packages and serving up meals at home versus eating out to achieve this. If your restaurant can respond to these new healthier desires by offering more nutritious foods, your customers may be enjoying dinner in your dining area instead of their own.

Shrinking menus

Small menus are easier to maintain and keep food costs and waste down.

Instead of having a wide variety of menu items to choose from, the trend is moving toward offering a smaller menu with items. According to Technomic, 7.1% of the top 500 restaurant chains have dropped the number of items on their menu. 9% of those drops are in entrees, 8% in appetizers, and 7.5% in desserts. Take Chik-fil-A for example. The company released this statement when they recently removed their famous coleslaw from the menu; “We know many of our customers love our coleslaw, yet we have also heard from them they are looking for new tastes and healthier ways to eat in our restaurants. To provide this variety means we will occasionally have to remove items from our menu.”

Here is why a smaller menu is worth the cuts: less is more. Having less items on your menu gives your customers better quality dishes, faster service, and hotter food. Customers are then happier because restaurants can do a better job with their most popular items. It’s almost like offering your own list of specialty items that customers come to your restaurant and only your restaurant to eat. In addition, restaurants are able to cut costs by cutting food bills and creating less food waste.

Even though trends are moving towards the shrinking menu, it’s not recommended that your take your four page menu and cut it down to one. You surely don’t want to shock your customers with drastic changes. Try making a slow transition by first taking items that aren’t so popular off of your menu. Work your way down, over time, to only offering a few appetizers and salads, a handful of main entries that you are good at and popular with your customer base, and a few desserts to top it off. Small changes, a little at a time, are all you need to fit in with this trend, if it is what will work best for your particular restaurant.

Ethnic flavors

Ethnic foods like Sriracha sauce are taking the culinary world by storm

Ethnic flavors are growing in popularity since Sriracha sauce became a savory phenomenon in the restaurant industry. In fact, Technomic reports that 77% of consumers purchase ethnic foods and flavors at least once a month. Chefs across the nation are incorporating more ethnic flavors into their menu and looking for that one unique blend to take the industry by storm.  Flavors like ghost pepper from India, sambal from Southeast Asia, gochujang from Korea, and harissa, suman and dukka from North Africa are likely to make their entrance this coming year. In addition, African flavors and Middle Eastern flavors have gained popularity over this year and are likely to continue in that path. Incorporating these flavors into your current menu offerings is a great way to introduce them to your customers.

Fresh and local sourcing…to be continued

Fresh, locally sourced produce and meats continue to be a hot trend

Articles and research in the restaurant industry over this past year have talked a lot about how important it is to buy locally with minimal processing.  This trend is going to continue into this upcoming year because chefs want locally sourced meat and seafood as well as locally grown produce to make their customers happy. The National Restaurant Association says local sourcing has been gaining momentum for several years and is influencing the culinary scene on a national level. They also state that this comes from the fact that today’s customers want to know where their food comes from and are willing to pay a little bit more to have that knowledge. Paired with the fact that the United States Department of Agriculture says that adults are choosing healthier food options, it looks like local sourcing is a winner-winner, “hormone free” chicken dinner.

Wages and tipping

Tipping is a hot button political issue for 2016

There is a heated debate in the restaurant industry surrounding the idea that minimum wage needs to be raised. Places like New York City and San Francisco have already seen these changes and there’s no telling how if, or how quickly, the rest of the country will follow suit. While looking at this debate, a new topic is coming to the forefront: tips. If restaurant owners are going to be required to pay a higher hourly rate for their employees, is tipping still necessary? Employees who have always gotten tips will likely agree that tips are necessary while employers who pay the increased wages will not. While the answer to this question depends on who you ask, it’s a topic that is of great concern to all involved

A more positive approach on the topic of eliminating tipping focuses on equal compensation with each employee seen as a key player on the restaurant’s team. Danny Meyer, the founder of Shake Shack, is at the forefront of this stance. He is eliminating tipping in his restaurants and pairing it with higher wages. This does mean a rise in menu prices but the cost to customers will not change as drastically as one may think. From this, employees gain a wage structure that is fair for every employee who is a part of each customer’s restaurant experience and it provides more of a living wage, rather than dependence on tips. With 11 million workers in the restaurant industry, this structure could surely help to professionalize restaurant jobs and ensure equal compensation.

As a restaurant owner, your best bet with the minimum wage saga will be to stay current with national and state legislation in order to anticipate the changes that will need to be made if your area is affected. A great resource for information on the minimum wage debate is the United States Department of Labor.

Automation

Automated restaurants help owners keep employment costs down and quaility up.

In response to the intense debate about minimum wages and its implementation, restaurants are starting to look at technology to assist with automating orders, payment, and food preparation to save on labor costs. Some already have. Actually, if this debate fails and minimum wage isn’t raised, restaurants will still be incorporating these technologies. Why? Restaurants are finding that by doing so, it makes processes simpler and faster. Automation is a term that can have many meanings for restaurants. For some it may mean incorporating iPads for ordering and payment; for others, it may mean full blown robotics. Whatever the case, you may find more restaurants in this coming year that are incorporating some kind of automation to make their processes more effective, to control their costs, and to minimize the costs of human employees to complete tasks. For more information on this topic, check out one of our previous blog articles called Automation in the Restaurant Industry.

Hard and Soft Design

 

Soft design with curtains, cushions, and carpet is making a comeback from the hard, industrial look.

Bin 36 in Chicago, IL

Previous years have brought about the concept of industrial-rustic design. Taking steel chairs and pairing them with refinished wood table tops in addition to pendant lighting, brick walls, and concrete floors has become quite a popular design theme. It still is. But, some restaurants are now pairing this hard industrial theme with softer items: softer lighting, flooring, and colors through curtains, upholstery or vinyl seats, and even on the walls. These softer elements bring about the less stark feeling that restaurant owners are trying to stay away from to offer a more inviting and comfortable atmosphere. You may have even entered a newer Burger King or Wendy’s and noticed upholstered furniture. This new design idea isn’t an established “trend” that is taking the nation over by storm, but it’s definitely a concept that is growing in popularity and will continue to over this coming year.

Restaurant owners need to know what trends are shaping the industry. Responding to these trends are important to staying relevant and competitive.  If you’re willing to conform to new and upcoming ideas while staying true to your brand, you will have a better chance of staying in forefront of the industry in this grand new year.

 

Save