Food is the new rock ‘n’ roll
29. November 2018 | Food Service Equipment, Shopping Today

Food is the new rock ‘n’ roll

Mega food stores with trendy product ranges are really mushrooming in London right now. The food halls are a bit like amusement parks, and even include cooking classes and urban gardening. In the evenings they are ideal as trendy meeting points, featuring live music, dancing and a cinema. Here’s where everything is happening, and they’re great places to chill out.

The mother of all London food markets and the source of inspiration for the creators of Eataly: Borough Market. (Photo: Borough Market)

The mother of all London food markets and the source of inspiration for the creators of Eataly: Borough Market. (Photo: Borough Market)

The catering industry in London has developed into a new environment that combines the retail trade with casual dining and gourmet experiences. The catalyst for this development was Borough Market, an urban food market that started off as a traditional, well established, but ailing market and morphed into somewhere which offers a range of innovative culinary delights.

Since then a large number of new catering venues have been developed. Thomas Rose, Head of Leisure & Restaurants at the consultancy firm Cushman & Wakefield, says: “Our research shows that there are over 16 food halls planned for London over the next four years; this totals over 300,000 sq ft (28,000 sqm) of space.”

Mercato Metropolitano has arrived

Ross Kirton from the consultancy firm Colliers International says that this development is increasingly being influenced by more relaxed eating patterns. “The current trend is to move away from three-course meals to smaller portions and even to single dishes shared by several people. Things are generally getting more casual and sociable.”

Mercato Metropolitano is a good place to enjoy a relaxed bite with your kids and your mates. Everyone can try things and have fun together. (Photo: Saramontali)

Mercato Metropolitano is a good place to enjoy a relaxed bite with your kids and your mates. Everyone can try things and have fun together. (Photo: Saramontali)

The most innovative and highly developed venue in London is an Italian-themed market which opened on the premises of an old paper factory in South London last year, only a few minutes from Borough Market. Mercato Metropolitano emulates the gigantic market halls in Turin and Milan, with a wide range of regional Italian and also international dishes hand-made on the premises. The project is the brainchild of Andrea Rasca who had also been involved in the launch of Eataly, which he left because he felt that its commercial development had gone too far.

There are numerous casual facilities to enjoy food and drinks, and the complex centres around a Sicilian supermarket offering Italian products. In addition, several food trucks alternate within the urban garden, and there are also a barber’s, cooking classes, a co-working space and a cinema. Thanks to crowdfunding, Rasca has collected around EUR 450,000 for the expansion of Mercato Metropolitano.

London Union Market at the

London Union Market at the “Giant Robot“: Street Food Market at the roof garden (Photo: Johnny Stephens Photography)

In East London an expansion of gastronomic opportunities is currently being undertaken by the Canary Wharf Group. The enterprise recently opened the London Union Market in the Crossrail Place Roof Garden at the Giant Robot, which covers 1,000 sqm, offering a wide range of street food. The interior feels like a cross between an airport departure hall and a nightclub, with concrete floors, retro furniture, cool music, four street stalls, two bars and a café. There is also an outside area called Rooftopia, a roof landscape with its own, specially designed rainforest under a translucent dome, supported by wooden struts. This dome is partly open, letting in birds and the wind.

Jonathan Downey, co-founder of London Union, believes that urban bars and restaurants particularly owe their success to interesting buildings such as a disused warehouse, combined with short leases. And then, he says, “it’s a matter of turning it into something interesting within a short period of time. The most important part of our business is to find, advise and support talented young people.


Although the Italian food and catering giant did not manage to set up an Eataly Food Hall at Selfridge’s, it has confirmed that it is planning to open its first UK venue at Broadgate, an office and retail complex in London, in 2020. Covering around 3,900 sqm, Eataly will occupy a ground floor and first floor. The Broadgate estate is around 13 hectares in size and largely pedestrianised.

Luca Baffigo, CEO of Eataly, has an interesting story to tell: “Before we opened our first Eataly outlet in Italy, we had a look at Borough Market in London for inspiration. So it’s particularly important and exciting for us to open an outlet in London, because London has been so important to our own development. This motivates us to create a special experience in London.”

The Time Out Market in Lisbon (photo: Time Out Markets)

The Time Out Market in Lisbon (photo: Time Out Markets)

Eataly has had more luck than Time Out, who planned to open a complex of 17 restaurants and 4 bars on the premises of the former stables in Shoreditch in East London. The complex, which would have seated 450 people, with 17 restaurants and 4 bars across 4 floors, was rejected by London’s planning department last year. Time Out also lost its subsequent appeal, and a further appeal is expected soon. With this mammoth project Time Out wants to repeat its successful 2014 project in Lisbon, where it became one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Portuguese capital.

Time Out will eventually set up in London

Jonathan Doughty, who heads the Food Service Department at ECE Project Management apparently has “no doubt” that Time Out will eventually find a suitable place in London. Yet he is doubtful whether London’s local authorities and landlords will be able to keep up with the rapid development of the restaurant trade: “Things are changing so fast, and bars and restaurants quickly become outmoded.”

Time Out, whose core business is the publication of tourist guides, also has plans for bars and restaurants in Miami, New York, Boston, Chicago and Porto. Didier Souillat, CEO of Time Out Markets, sees the location as a key factor: “It’s very difficult to find suitable places where people live and work and where there are tourists. We need to find up-and-coming locations which we can afford but which will be too expensive in two or three years’ time.” One major requirement in selecting a venue, says Souillat, is the need to reach a benchmark of 1,000 guests per day.

There are also several new players in London. In 2018 Market Halls planned to open three new food halls, which will be followed by three more next year. The first place, Market Hall Fulham, will be opened in May, featuring 10 food outlets and a bar in the entrance hall of the Edwardian tube station Fulham Broadway. The three-story Market Hall Victoria opened in November, and early in the new year its flagship venue Market Hall West End will open right next to Oxford Street. To quote Simon Anderson, an investor in the project: “We want to encourage our operators to be innovative and to create their own character. “Food is the new rock ‘n’ roll, and we are providing the perfect stage.”

Author: Mark Faithfull
Source: EHI Retail Institute e. V.
First published on

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