Food Hall
Food halls are trending big in Dubai. Time Out Market's confirmation of launching one early next year is the latest. Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

Dubai: Food halls are a hot trend in Dubai’s F&B space, with businesses willing to test it out as the quickest and more cost effective way to reach customers in a pandemic-scarred environment.

Each month now sees a new – or even an existing – destination open their food hall versions, and attracting some serious interest. “Many standalone restaurants are still dealing with the economic fallout,” said Didier Souillat, CEO of Time Out Market. “Food halls in general provide independent businesses with a viable opportunity in central locations around the world.” 

This is why Dubai was chosen as the host destination for the newest Time Out Market-place. In fact, this is first one after the pandemic struck. The Dubai location – at the Souk Al Bahar – is scheduled for a first quarter 2021 opening, and will be followed by Porto (late next year), London (in 2022) and Prague (in 2023), with further expansion plans in the works.

Just recently, the super-premium commercial tower ICD Brookfield at DIFC opened with a food hall on the ground floor. Malls are reworking their spaces to launch their own versions, offering a slightly more upmarket feel than traditional food courts.

“The thriving culinary scene in Dubai is why we have chosen it as the first location to open in a post-COVID-19 world,” said Souillat. “Many locally grown chefs and restaurateurs have accepted our invitation to be a part.”

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Revenue share

The Time Out Market model provides fully fitted kitchens, so that the only expenses for the chefs and business owners are pre-opening setup costs and training. Following that, they provide a revenue share system rather than a rent-based payment.

“We also manage the marketing and PR for their Time Out Market concepts, as well as the support from the wider Time Out brand,” said Souillat.

The Dubai market is part of a management agreement with Emaar Malls. The Souk Al Bahar is a prime spot for Dubai residents and tourists, who flock to see the Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Fountains.

For vendors, setting up shop in food halls is an extremely attractive option, especially in this current climate, where many are struggling to keep traditional restaurants alive in central locations due to the high rents and a lower pandemic-driven footfall.

The first Time Out Market opened in 2014 in a historic market hall in Lisbon and quickly turned into a huge success and one of Lisbon’s most popular tourist destinations with 4.1 million visitors in 2019. Following that, they launched a further six Time Out Markets in Miami, New York, Boston, Montréal and Chicago.

Food halls in general provide independent businesses with a viable opportunity in central locations

- Didier Souillat of Time Out Market