Less formal than restaurants, more upmarket than food courts and hawker centres – food halls are taking the world by storm. These multi-concept dining venues combine a curated selection of vendors under one roof, with communal seating and a hip ambience.
The rise of this trend has in part to do with the operational difficulties of running a restaurant. “Entrepreneurs often struggle with high rental costs and a lack of manpower,” explains Wilmer Ang, co-owner of FOMO, a food hall in Singapore that opened last November. “Food halls help reduce these burdens, enabling restaurant owners to focus on their kitchen. This results in better quality of food and greater affordability.”
Then there is the aesthetic appeal. “Unlike hawker centres, we focus more on branding,” Ang says. At FOMO, for example, the dining area is packed with planters and terrariums. “It’s a tropical theme that represents Singapore’s reputation as a garden city.”
Over in the Philippines, Nowie Potenciano, owner of Streetmarket Boracay, points to another practical benefit of food halls: the sheer variety of options available. “Stalls serve up more than your typical hawker fare,” says Potenciano, who opened the food hall in the new Station X area. “They appeal to large groups or families, who usually have a hard time picking one restaurant.”
“However, while food halls are definitely on the rise, they will have to continually evolve to stand out,” he adds. “This would mean ever-improving experiences and choices for customers.”
3 food halls on the SilkAir network to check out
Opened in early 2017, Boracay’s first food hall is shaking up the island’s dining scene. Seven stalls dish up everything from Mexican burritos to Japanese yakitori sticks . But it’s not just the food that’ll please; the space offers a colourful alfresco picnic area.
Photogenic interiors, trendy food offerings and a prime location in the heart of Kampong Glam mean FOMO ticks all the right boxes. Highlights include Louisiana-style seafood from Mr Wholly Seafood Company and chicken-based ramen at Zamza.
Swallow combines a furniture store and F&B players like Taps Beer Bar, Teppei Syokudo and Thai milk tea gurus Soi 55 in a refurbished Art Deco saw mill. Visit quick, though, as the pop-up may close at the end of March.
This article was originally published in the February 2018 issue of Silkwinds magazine.