Food halls, dine-in venues that host a range of local and independent restaurants, are poised for growth in 2024. Unlike traditional mall food courts, these marketplaces avoid including major restaurant chains, often showcase international culinary options, and are typically more expensive. Despite economic challenges from the pandemic and inflation, reports indicate the U.S. is witnessing a surge in food hall growth, with at least 340 currently open nationally and another 127 under construction.

According to the latest CivicScience data, nearly 2-in-5 Americans have some kind of experience eating at a food hall, with 3% saying they’re typically eating at one at least weekly. A further 16% say they have yet to try the experience but are interested in exploring a food hall at some point. 

Gen Z and Millennials are the far and away leaders in food hall dining. That said, 21% of Gen Xers and 13% of Baby Boomers report they’re interested in checking out a food hall at some point in the future.

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Hybrid-working, urban consumers are most likely to drive the food hall craze.

While food halls appear to be popular among workers across all working situations, those working in hybrid environments (77%) are most likely to have eaten at a food hall, seven points higher than their fully in-person working counterparts and seven points more likely than those working fully remotely (among those aware of food halls).

Food halls, once mostly exclusive to cities, now extend to suburbs due to increased demand fueled by remote work during the pandemic. Among those aware, 71% of city dwellers have tried them, and suburban consumers are not far behind (66%). While access remains a challenge for rural consumers, 21% are interested in trying the experience should they come across one. 

Food hall fans are split on what they prioritize when going out to eat.

Additional CivicScience data show food hall patrons are more likely than others to value quality and healthy options. Given the diverse food options at food halls, it’s also not surprising that the plurality of those who have tried food halls value varied menus when dining out. Interestingly, those uninterested in food halls are three points more likely than food hall enthusiasts to prefer menu variety when eating out. Intenders, on the other hand, are less divided on their priorities, with the majority either craving a diverse menu (55%) or prioritizing lower prices (23%) when they’re dining out.

Additional food hall insights from the CivicScience InsightStore™:

  • Inflation remains of paramount concern – 59% of food hall diners and 64% of those uninterested in food halls feel ‘very’ concerned. Intenders are less likely to share strong concerns (40%).
  • Food hall diners (62%) and intenders (55%) are at least 26 points more likely to be interested in fast-food and quick-service restaurant menu items featuring local ingredients compared to those uninterested in trying food halls (29%).
  • Food hall customers are at least 22 percentage points more likely than intenders and those uninterested to cite health and diet as their top focus for New Year’s resolutions this year, and they’re far from alone.

Despite economic challenges in the quick-service restaurant industry, food halls have emerged as a standout, witnessing significant growth. With 31% of Americans expecting food hall dining to become widespread in the coming years, it highlights the resilience and potential these spaces hold.

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