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Food halls in London: the snowball effect?

Updated: Jan 2, 2020

We've witnessed a huge acceleration in openings of food halls in London over 2019 and in particular, in the past month. Here, we summarise the latest openings and look towards what their wider impact might be in 2020.

Market Halls: fast gaining momentum

A major new arrival on the London food hall scene over the past two years has been Market Halls. From the first site in Fulham, there are now three in the capital, including the latest, just off Oxford Street, in the upstairs of what was once Bhs. The latest one differs from the first two, in its greater scale and in the fact that unlike the other two, it doesn't have an old building as its backdrop. The first two therefore perhaps have more character and are warmer environments, but the scale and location of this site mean it could have a bigger broader impact.

Mercato Metropolitano: differentiating by design, location and function

Mercato Metropolitano's first London site at Elephant & Castle has been open a while now, but its second site, in an old church in Mayfair close to Oxford Street, brings it much more into the central London environment. And the mix of food stands and bars works well, supported by the vaulted crypt basement, which includes a wine cellar, a charcuterie and fromagerie, an in-house micro-brewery and a fantastic space for events. There's a focus on fresh, artisanal and sustainably sourced ingredients, and strong but not exclusively Italian focus, with the raw bar (sushi and poke) and the Turkish restaurant being perhaps the most obvious exceptions. The use of the space for different purposes, whether it be cookery classes, tastings or private events, also adds a new dimension.

Borough Kitchen: adding a new dimension to the Borough Market experience

Borough Market has become a top London attraction in recent years, and not just for food retail safaris. And its destination status will be further enhanced by the addition of the Borough Kitchen. Though covered, it's outside, so a warm coat is required in winter months. It promises to come into its own in spring and summer. Like the core of Borough Market, the diversity and quality of food on offer adds interest and appeal.

A growing wave of momentum

These there are just the latest additions to what is an increasingly vibrant food hall scene in London, which promises to be further enhanced by the opening of Eataly (2020) on Bishopsgate and Time Out Market, set to open in 2021 at Waterloo. And, the expansion continues in outer London, as well as in a growing number of cities up and down the UK. And we're seeing very similar trends across much of Europe, with major projects planned in cities such as Brussels and Paris.

And there's good reason for this. Food halls are a neat fit with changing consumer priorities, offering flexility around what you eat, and when you eat, whether the customer is on their own or as part of a larger group. The growth of street food as a trend means there's a great supply of innovative food stands competing for space, and while most will be permanent, the proposition does create the chance to flex some food stands, to introduce new cuisines or take advantage of new trends, relatively easily. What's more the breadth of proposition makes it easier to show relevance for consumers with different dietary requirements. For example Market Halls recently introduced a vegetarian and vegan menu, from across all of the food on offer, in its Victoria site. Technology, of course, could play a further role in creating more personalised menus in the future.

The growing influence of food halls will be one of our key trends for 2020, and we'll be helping our clients understand more about how it will impact retail, food-to-go and foodservice development in the year ahead. Get in touch if you want us to help you.

And click here to book onto our next London safari, on January 28, which will of course include food halls as part of a broader focus on food-to-go and format evolution.

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