The continued rise of Food Halls is something we are monitoring across the world. In Europe, the concept is renowned for places such as Mercado di Ribeiro (Lisbon), Markthal (Rotterdam), Eataly (Milan) and Mathallen (Oslo) to name a few. In the US, the rise of the Food Hall concept is all over the press at the moment, so much so that after almost 120 years the famous Katz Deli has only just launched its second unit inside Brooklyn’s DeKalb Market Hall.
Whilst the debate continues as to whether a Food Hall is the same as Food Court, there are notable differences between the two. Firstly, a Food Court is usually located within a Shopping Centre, with a space surrounded by well-known fast food operators and a mass of seating options. Secondly, by reducing the concept down to the basics, from our research and findings across the world a Food Hall usually has a much higher element of authenticity, an anti-brand ethos and independence. It is not restricted to a Shopping Centre location and can feature additional elements, such as Leisure, Offices and Residential components.
For the residents of North London, a brand new Food Hall opened it’s doors this July, promising to showcase the very best in authentic, Asian cuisine. Bang Bang Oriental, designed by Stiff + Trevillion is set to be an eco-friendly hotspot, bringing together 32 operators showcasing Malaysian, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Indian, Japanese and Taiwanese foods across 32,000 ft2 of space. The space, which had previously been a hub for the Oriental community, aims to expand on this history and hopes to attract a new crowd of footfall that will put the Food Hall on the map for the Oriental community in London, for many years to come.
The design echo’s the feel of a bustling Asian street food market, with an Oriental soundtrack being played across the Hall, as well as seats for 450 diners in an array of different configurations. There’s more to this Food Hall than just foodservice, with a massage parlour, herbal medicine shop plus a nail and beauty salon on the mezzanine floor. In keeping with the local community, the opportunity to learn the traditional Chinese Lion dance is available in one of the community spaces, as well as a 300 seat restaurant situated on the ground floor level.
So given that I visited on opening day, how was it? Well let’s begin with the positives. I did feel as though I had been transformed out from London and into an Oriental food market, with popular choices including dim sum, bubble tea and roast duck. The range of different food available was overwhelming, in a good way, as it meant that various visits to the Food Hall would allow you to try something different each time. There was definitely a good vibe in the hall, with families, groups and individuals of all ages enjoying the various different operator outlets and importantly, the food was authentic in taste, being made-to-order.
However, with all new openings there are teething problems. Whilst I visited after lunch, in the early evening before dinner, lots of tables remained unclear and had used plates, trays and cutlery on them. Whilst the furniture was functional, it was not appealing, which can also be said for the actual units themselves. One of the biggest disappointments, given that we are now in a digital age is that only 2 of the operators offered card payment services. This was a little disappointing as it meant I could not try a variety of different dishes. In a Food Hall environment, contactless payment would not only make the guest experience easier, but it would also eliminate queues and speed up service times.
I do fully expect Bang Bang Oriental to address these issues as it grows, learns and becomes an iconic Asian destination in London. Especially seeing as the growth of Food Halls are on the rise and guests are beginning to not only understand these concepts, but desire destinations like Food Hall that provide a real point of difference, authenticity and experience. It is these factors, plus the uniqueness of the concept that is a big attraction for guests, as they aim to escape from their everyday lives and become immersed in a new world, surrounded by enticing smells, sensational aromas and thriving atmospheres all around food.
If you live nearby, or want to visit a unique environment which you won’t find anywhere else in London, I would highly recommend you give Bang Bang Oriental a chance. Remember that it is new, bear in mind that there will be learnings and challenges for the owners, but imagine the potential that this Food Hall has for shaping the future of the Oriental foodservice scene in the market.
Landlords, developers and investors take note, Food Halls are here and they are the ‘now’, get creative and give people new authentic experiences that they can enjoy, love and want to return back to.