The New Food-Court Phenomenon Based on Indoor European Food Markets
It is nearly impossible to go to a mall today without encountering a food court. Nevertheless, food courts are still a relatively new phenomenon and are constantly changing.
Food courts began to become a staple of malls, colleges, universities, airports, and office buildings around the world in the 1990s. People flocked to them because of the sheer variety of food that was offered and the option to choose from a wide range of restaurants in one place.
The issue with food courts is that they soon turned into a magnet for fast-food chains, which was great for business at first, but then became part of a culture of unhealthy eating, especially in North America. As more consumers have grown conscious about the way they eat, it seems that food courts may be decreasing in popularity. Consequently, the industry has had to find way of retaining customers and it has done so with European-inspired food halls.
European food halls offer fresh produce, meat, fish, baked goods, and more, which consumers can buy from stands, stalls, or in restaurants. The key here? Fresh. Tasty. Delicious.
While fast food has certainly not disappeared completely, the new spin on food courts is designed to attract today’s more health-conscious generation. It would not be surprising if malls in North America started taking cues from Europe and creating food courts with food halls or markets based on the European model.
What exactly does a European food hall look like? Take a look at the top five:
De Foodhallen — Amsterdam, Netherlands
Founded in 2014, Foodhallen gives a platform to local chefs and restaurants by showcasing Amsterdam’s unique and flavorful cuisine. Foodhallen is located in a renovated 19th-century tram depot and includes 21 stands as well as informal diners and established restaurants. De Foodhallen celebrates the flavors of Amsterdam and includes specialties such as fresh blonde beer from local craft brewery De Eeuwige Jeugd and crispy softshell crab from Le Big Fish.
Naschmarkt — Vienna, Austria
Vienna’s Naschmarkt boasts 120 stands and restaurants that combine to create the most popular food market in Vienna. Its location at the Wienzeile over the Wien River and near the Secession Art Gallery makes it a perfect stop for a bite to eat while on a tour. Although Viennese dishes (schnitzel, palatschinken, and kaiserschmarrn) are the most popular feature there, Italian and Vietnamese cooking as well as other international surprises can also be found. In addition, the Naschmarkt hosts a flea market on Saturdays that has gained international acclaim.
Mercado de San Miguel — Madrid, Spain
Located near the historic Plaza Mayor, the Puerta del Sol, and the Royal Palace, there is no reason to miss the Mercado de San Miguel. A lively covered market, Mercado de San Miguel hosts a variety of fresh-food stalls, stands, restaurants, and food shops. The market’s specialty is gourmet, fresh tapas spiced with local mixes. Visitors can enjoy food cooked on the spot and can buy bottles of wine as well as canned goods to take back home.
Markthalle Neun — Berlin, Germany
One of the few original market halls that remain in Berlin, Markthalle Neun was revamped in 2011 by owners Nikolaus Driessen, Florian Niedermeier, and Bernd Maier exactly 120 years after its original opening.
Markthalle Neun hosts a traditional food market on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, but all sorts of food is on sale every day of the week except Sunday. Specialties served include pulled pork sandwiches at The Big Stuffed Smoked BBQ, freshly made pasta at Mani in Pasta, handmade tofu at Tofu Tussis, and craft beer at Heidenpeters. Thursday evenings are a special treat with Street Food Thursday between 5:00 and 10:00 PM, featuring stalls serving British pies, Nigerian FuFu, Thai tapioca dumplings, Mexican tacos, and more.
Depo Food Mall — Moscow, Russia
Located in the restored Miussky tram depot, the Depo Food Mall opened recently in February 2019. Owned by Zarakh Iliev and God Nisanov, it is the largest food market in Russia and Europe with more than 200 stalls, restaurants, and shops. Locals and tourists alike can enjoy browsing for artisanal cheeses as well as fruits and vegetables. It also has trendy restaurants and cozy cafes. Like other food markets that offer cultural events, the Depo hosts concerts, DJs, workshops, and lectures too.
Eat Well, Live Well
If food courts in North America could model the European food-hall concept, it would be a win-win situation. Food courts would attract customers, and consumers would be able to have access to a variety of fresh, healthy items rather than the menus offered by fast-food chains. Of course, since the food halls in Europe are so spectacular, North American food courts will have a hard act to follow.