Food Halls Satisfy Our Need For Safely-Adventurous Self-Expression

There are many reasons for why we eat. Knowing what food-consumption needs your brand-business satisfies is critical. Needs-based occasion-driven segmentation is fundamental to brand-business success. The latest example – phenomenon – derived from needs-based occasion-driven segmentation is the Food Hall. Some may say that a Food Hall is a channel, not a need. In a few cases, for some people, that may be the case. But, understanding why we eat helps demonstrate how a Food Hall satisfies a need.

Needs-based occasion-driven segmentation helps define a brand-business’ strategy and policies. Needs-based occasion-driven segmentation helps to answer the questions: Who is the customer? What are the customer’s needs and problems? What are the contexts (how, when where) in which these needs and problems occur for these particular customers? 

Global research studies over decades indicate that there are a handful of universal needs when it comes to eating. These big universal needs are either physiological or psychological, or both. These big universal needs are also multi-dimensional. For example, Hunger is, of course, a universal physiological need. The universal Hunger need has dimensions such as satisfying real hunger, satisfying energy re-fueling or satisfying a nutritional dimension. Break is both a physiological and psychological need. We may need a psychological lift or an escape. We may need a physiological time out. Or we may want not to cook, which can be both physiological or psychological. 

Self-expression is a need for why we eat. Self-expression has multiple dimensions including the need to be adventurous. Food Halls are where people can satisfy their need to feel adventurous via eating out.

According to The Wall Street Journal’s recent report, Food Halls are becoming ubiquitous eating destinations. The reason provided by The Wall Street Journal? People who moved to the suburbs during COVID want to replicate their city dining options of different cuisines and local chefs’ versions of different cuisines. The Wall Street Journal focuses on the real estate angle (profitable ways to use empty mall space). This explanation misses the point that Food Halls address an unmet personal need. 

Satisfying an unmet need – or solving a problem – are two of the best ways for a brand-business to generate high quality revenue growth. And, The Wall Street Journal’s explanation does not address Food Halls in places like Miami. In the Miami area, there are about 9 different Food Halls, including Shoma Bazaar, Julia & Henry’s, Lincoln Eatery, MIA Market and Oasis Wynwood.

Unlike a Food Court which is populated by fast-food restaurants, a Food Hall is a splendid collection of ethnic, gourmet and local craft eating and drinking opportunities. 

Food Halls offer creative dining experiences along with the breweries, grocery stores, butchers, food boutiques, artisan/local food products and entertainment. Food Halls contain multiple restaurants, usually with counter-service and communal seating. Food Halls are usually showcases for local chefs with safely-exotic cuisines such as Korean, Syrian, Nepalese, smoked meats, BBQ and rustic Italian, for example. Food Halls are eating destinations where local, artisanal chefs curate dining options.

There are no McDonald’s, no Cinnabon, no Panda Express. Forget Sbarro and Sonic. There are no plastic utensils. The Food Hall, according to online reporting, is “the cooler, hipper cousin” of the Food Court. These trendy, popular, experiential establishments are not just for East Coast or West Coast diners. Middle America is enchanted as well. Cities such as Omaha, NB, Reno, NV, Dunwoody, GA and Cincinnati, OH have Food Halls.  Minneapolis, Kentucky and Pittsburgh have Food Halls. Small towns across America have Food Halls. The Wall Street Journal states that there are 364 Food Halls dotting the American food landscape, with more on the way. A request for articles on Nexis for the last month turned up over 300 stories. The sixth-month request showed 1288 pages of articles.

Even Wegman’s, the very popular American grocery chain, is adapting to the Food Hall concept with its Astor Place, NYC, store. The Astor Place Wegman’s has a Food Hall offering sushi, salads, sandwiches, soups, pizza, wings, hot Asian cuisine and made-to-order and packaged Mediterranean options.   Food Halls are multiplying because Food Halls satisfy a need for self-expression. This is the definition of a market: people with a need. And, Food Halls are a growing need. Data indicate that the Food Halls market will grow to $71.69 in 2 years.

You might not want to participate in extreme sports, yet you may desire adventure. You might not have a passport. You might not want to travel outside your state or your neighborhood. Yet, you might not want to eliminate excitement and adventure from your life. Food is a safe, personally-expressive way in which to satisfy a need for adventure. Food Halls deliver the newest tastes and flavors. Food Halls challenge a diner’s taste buds. Food Halls provide the exotic within one’s own neighborhood.

Additionally, one critical aspect of self-expression is personalization. People want the ability to individualize a brand experience; they want to have it their own way. A Food Hall allows a diner to walk around to create a unique, individualized menu. The combination of a personalized menu curated by local chefs reflecting global tastes and dishes is an extraordinary way in which to optimize the marketing challenge of catering to the contradictory force of globalization, localization and personalization.

Needs-based occasion-driven segmentation shows that Food Halls are more than just a real estate play. Food Halls are a context for satisfying a driving customer need.