Remember going to shopping malls when you were younger, and you had the endless options of cheap fast food? There was Taco Bell, Subway, Panda Express, and Burger King; maybe a salad option if you were lucky.
All of that is changing.
New York City has seen the major success of placing high-quality, high-end food vendors in food courts together. It saves money for the vendors (aka food business owners) and is a major profit for the owners (of the food court).
Smorgasburg, a food market in Brooklyn, has a range of 75-100 vendors. The market began in May 2011 and has become a massive sensation ever since. It’s no secret that instead of flocking to easily-accessible mass brands that are recognized practically everywhere, (the food courts of your childhood), consumers actually want better food, and are willing to pay a little extra for it.
For a vendor, being in a market like Smorgasburg is cheaper than having a full store. Additionally, the visibility a vendor gets by being in Smorgasburg is huge. This year’s Saturday-and-Sunday summer operation has a massive social media presence and has turned into the talk of the town.
Success at Smorgasburg can mean success outside of it as well. Vendors have been known to gain an audience through Smorgasburg, then go on to open their own full stores with the new following they have garnered.
For example, Mighty Quinn’s Barbeque, a fast-casual BBQ eatery, had its beginnings in Smorgasburg. The barbeque vendor features a highly popular brisket. Now, they have a restaurant location in the East Village, and another food court location at Hudson Eats in the Financial District.
It is now the norm for Smorgasburg vendors to also have locations in other food courts. With the rise of Madison Square Eats, Broadway Bites, Hudson Eats, Gotham West Market, and even in very high-end The Plaza Hotel’s Food Hall, small vendors are finding this growing trend beneficial.
By arranging together a huge amount of different food options, Smorgasburg, and other high-end food courts, have become a huge draw for consumers. Hungry New Yorkers can find a variety of good food options, all in the condensed location of a food court.
Hudson Eats, a food court in Brookfield Place in the Financial District of NYC, features Black Seed Bagel, Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar, Chop’T, Dig Inn Seasonal Market, Dos Toros Taqueria, Little Muenster, Mighty Quinn’s Barbeque, Northern Tiger, Num Pang, Olive’s, Skinny Pizza, Sprinkles, Tartinery, and Unami Burger.
Before Hudson Eats, Brookfield Place did not have many food options. Now businessmen and women have a giant handful of lunch opportunities each day to choose from.
It will be interesting to see how this NYC trend sprawls out into the rest of the country. Hopefully these Manhattan-based mom and pop shops will expand nationally into suburbia food courts too.
Elana is a senior at New York University double majoring in journalism and art history. She loves all things chocolate (especially Levain dark chocolate chocolate chip cookies). Her pastimes include writing, eating, museum-hopping, and attempting to decipher Harry Styles’ tweets.
Photo Credit: Ali Truwit, Diana Zarowin