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Milwaukee Food Halls On The Rise

Korn V.
Adobe Stock

Food halls have been popping up in neighborhoods and suburbs throughout the Milwaukee Area. These spaces have become popular in cities throughout the country, and generally offer a dining experience uniquely different from a standard restaurant.

"The idea is to have these kind of small format, usually local food and beverage vendors collected into one place with a central bar and also central seating," says Tom Daykin, a reporter covering commercial real estate for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

He explains "You're not going to have microwaves operating in food halls. You're going to have higher quality, created from scratch ingredients. The emphasis at food halls is going to be on local, local, local."

Daykin says that the central bars are often the focal point and there will be a focus on keeping people there with adult activities like yoga and cooking classes. 

"The food halls want you to come in, want you to spend time there, want you to people watch. That's one of the key differences," says Daykin. "When I think of the old food courts - Cinnabon doesn't usually ecourage you to linger. I'm not going to buy a slice of Rocky Roccoco's and sit there for another 20-30 minutes and gaze around."

Daykin also draws a distinction between food halls and public markets, which have also become more common throughout the area. 

"What you have at public markets is a lot of business generated by carry out," says Daykin. "People will stop in at Milwaukee Public Market or Mequon Public Market, they'll buy food and take it elsewhere."

Joy Powers hosts and produces Lake Effect. She joined WUWM in 2016.
Tom Daykin has been covering commercial development at the Journal Sentinel since 1995.