Comment: Looking back at past predictions

Duncan Fraser-Smith reflects on predictions he has made and reveals what has and hasn’t come true.
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Caterer Food and Business conference, Food courts, Shopping malls

This month, I decided to look back at some of my predictions, one specifically, over the last few years, that have graced the pages of Caterer Middle East, to see if my forecasts rang true.

I must admit, I won’t necessarily be giving up my day job to operate out of a tent at the circus predicting the future; however there was one in particular that the world by and large has embraced, and we are still very much trailing behind.

What I am talking about is food halls. I started talking about these in 2014, even mentioning it at the Caterer Food and Business conference that year and yet, to date, I still don’t see them springing up here.

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Having lived in Australia for the younger part of my life, it is so encouraging to see food halls taking over the spaces that traditional food courts used to hold in mainstream shopping malls. These food halls are now populated with offerings from established restaurateurs throughout the city. As an example, one of Australia’s pioneering chefs, Neil Perry, has recently opened his latest casual concept, called The Burger Project, within the food hall. This is not QSR food, but a well-themed dining concept with multiple seating options, including within the outlet itself.

The trend in Australia is so strong for food halls, that even large-scale, residential developments in the suburban areas are allocating space within their podiums for branded food hall concepts to populate, with the food hall being a lure to attract potential buyers.

There is no denying that in Europe and the US this trend has consistently developed over the past three to four years and shows no sign of backing down.

Most recently, I was made aware of the What’s On Food Hall in Lisbon, once again an amazing opportunity for restaurateurs to place a small scale version of their existing concept in an area that would not normally drive traffic and footfall. This is definitely a scalable concept and I am sure we will see many more of these pop up in the coming years.

Back to our home, the Middle East, I do honestly believe that with the runaway freight train that is retail growth in this market, surely, we could be looking to create more food halls, rather than food court options. Naturally it requires the proper planning and resourcing; however we are not short of great restaurants in the region, so why not create smaller versions that can assist in driving greater footfall to our malls and retail developments?

The customers’ discerning palate continues to grow, and the opportunity to experience food by Vineet Bhatia, Jason Atherton, Gary Rhodes, Tom&Serg and Tasha all under one roof, with either an individual dining space or more excitingly, a community dining atmosphere, at least to me is something I would frequent regularly.

Therefore, I lay out the challenge to the first investor/developer to take the step and create our first food hall. The concept has been tested and ratified on an international scale and with the gamut of cuisines that land in this part of the world, this is surely a recipe for success.

Duncan Fraser-Smith is the director – global food & beverage for The First Group who is developing, creating and executing more than 30 new concepts to site within the company’s hotel portfolio. Email him at duncan.fraser-smith@thefirstgroup.com.

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