A New-Look Food Hall – Fort Worth Weekly
At the entrance to the Food Hall on Crockett Row there is a sign that reads, “Sorry for our dust. We’re making exciting changes! “More than half of the stands are empty, with huge black sheets covering the clutter of construction.
Eight new original concepts will fill the empty stands by mid-April. The new look hall will include tenants serving pizza and pasta, frozen pudding, coffee, salads, a cheese-centric concept (think queso, grilled cheese sandwiches and mac ‘n’ cheese), and east coast style sandwiches (subs and) hot sammys ) and a mini-mart bodega for local residents –– A taco concept is the only thing that doesn’t start with the others. It is expected to take another month.
The decor has already started to change. The walls between the stands are falling down to give the place more of a street scene, said a spokesman who spoke to me on condition of anonymity for privacy. The bar concept is retained, but the plastic cups are replaced by glasses and the stainless steel bartop is now made of wood with a black rim. Lounge furniture gives the hall the comfortable feeling of a coffee house, they said. There will be a printer and a workstation, all of which are designed to keep people – especially residents – in the hall longer.
“Our goal is to make it a neighborhood place for everyone,” said the person. “The whole idea is to make the hall warmer and more comfortable – a place you want to visit three times a week.”
The current residents of the hall remain – those who are left.
On a recent weekday lunch, the dining room was mostly empty. Only about 10 of the 40 or so tables were occupied.
Photo of chow, baby
The Food Hall opened to much ballyhoo in December 2018. For Fort Worth Chef Victor Villarreal, whose pizza concept was placed on the Food Hall’s PR marquee by Abe Froman, the hall was a place where he could finally have a restaurant concept to call himself.
In July 2019 the hall began to unravel. Celebrity chef John Tesar was the first to go on bail with his Knife Burger concept.
“Restaurants can’t make money in a food hall,” he said in a recent interview with me. “Only grocery store owners ever make money.”
Abe Fromans, Ben’s Pretzels, Butlers Cabinet, The Dock, EB2 Elotes, GiGis Cupcakes, Monkey King Noodle Company, and Rollin ‘n Bowlin’ Açaí Bowls followed – more than half of the original residents have disappeared, along with a couple that replaced those that were left.
Villarreal said he never made any money in the hall – and because of his conversations with other providers, nobody else either. His problems arose when the owners of the hall hired a consultant who wanted to fundamentally change Villarreal’s business.
“They wanted to change the concept of my restaurant to cheap pasta and salads,” he said. The agent, added Villarreal, “wanted me to make CiCi’s pizza.”
Villarreal and others said the only restaurants that have survived are those that have different sources of income: catering business, different locations, and / or different concepts. He believes the first iteration could have worked if the owners of the hall had invested money in marketing their vendors rather than remodeling them.
“It wouldn’t be a problem if they spoke to us, but they kept us in the dark,” he said. “Why are you going to tear down all these walls to make it look new when you could spend this?” [money] Bring people in? “
Part of the reason the first version of the hall stuttered was that some cooks were only cooking for themselves and not for the general public, according to the spokesman.
“You have to prepare things that people want and like,” said the person. People weren’t buying the imaginative, hyper-creative gourmet cuisine, they said.
“What is good for one provider is good for all providers,” said the person. “People didn’t have that culture and mentality, which hurt them a little.”
Now with décor and concepts that are supposed to please the masses, the operators of the hall hope that people will come back when the dust has settled.