The food hall trend that’s proven popular in other cities appears to be fading in Richmond.
Hatch Local Food Hall, the first such concept of its kind in the city limits at 400-414 Hull St. in Manchester, plans to cease operations this spring after two years in business.
The food hall’s space will be repurposed for use by Hatch Kitchen, a local food incubator that co-owned and operated the food hall with local real estate development firm Lynx Ventures. Their exact plans for the space have yet to be announced.
The pending closure comes just weeks after EAT Restaurant Partners, one of the city’s biggest restaurant groups, confirmed that it is scrapping plans to open a food hall in Scott’s Addition. It would have been the second food hall in the city.
Hatch Local spans 9,000 square feet across two suites in The Current, a mixed-use development that Lynx kicked off in 2018 and completed in 2021. The food hall opened in early 2022 with stalls that are rented out to separate operators.
Of the decision to close, Lynx co-founder Bernard Harkless said operating the food hall was fundamentally difficult.
“It was seven different business owners and seven different expectations to manage,” Harkless said. “It’s just a lot of moving pieces.”
“I think going forward, we’ve got some better ways to better serve the larger food and beverage ecosystem that’s pretty robust in town,” Harkless said of the group’s future use of the food hall space, without going into further detail.
Hatch Local’s last day is planned to be March 31, after which Hatch Kitchen and Lynx will begin pivoting the space toward another use that Harkless said they’ll announce in the coming weeks. It’s likely to be under the Hatch Kitchen brand, which also operates logistics and packaged goods-focused divisions.
“It was always the vision for (the food hall) to be a place that people can come for a little while, refine their business plan and their product, and then hopefully move out to do something different, whether that’s focusing on catering and/or going to brick-and-mortar,” Harkless said. “We always envisioned it being a stepping stone to something else. So in this iteration, we’re pivoting to something different.”
The food hall’s existing tenants also are now forced to pivot, with some already looking to take their concepts into a more standalone brick-and-mortar operation.
Jon Martin and Liz Clifford have operated Fat Kid Sandwiches at the food hall since its opening in 2022, and while the couple said they’ve enjoyed being part of the Hatch Local community, they’re now accelerating their plans for their restaurant’s next chapter.
“It obviously isn’t great (that the food hall’s closing),” Clifford said. “I thought that we worked to make something pretty cool out of the food hall but I understand that Hatch has to make a financial decision and they’re doing what is best for them.
“We actually had a bunch of plans working that we’re going to have to turn the dial up to 11 on. So you’ll see a new version of Fat Kid Sandwiches coming soon.”
One of the food hall’s newest tenants, chicken sandwich concept 1115 Mobile Kitchen, had just opened its stall in November after years as a food truck. While it will be short-lived, owner Henry Fletcher said operating at Hatch Local was both a good trial run for running 1115 outside of the food truck and a way to bring in some business during the slow winter food truck season.
Now with the food hall going away, Fletcher’s continuing to press the gas on his bigger plans for 1115.
“When they announced what was going to be happening with the food hall, I honestly just used it as an opportunity to move forward to the next project, which is to get us into a full brick-and-mortar,” Fletcher said. “So that’s what we’re looking at now. We’re trying to find a place that fits our needs.”
Fat Kid Sandwiches and 1115 would not be the first vendors to leave the food hall for their own space.
Odyssey Fish, owned by the folks behind Alewife restaurant, was one of the original Hatch Local tenants before relocating to the West End. Mexican-American concept Sincero recently left Hatch for a full-service space in Jackson Ward.
Other current tenants at the food hall include Cambodian spot Royal Pig, farmhouse-style eatery Grace, Greek on Cary and TBT Gallito, the last three of which opened in Hatch Local last year.
The rapidly growing Lindsey Food Group was part of Hatch Local’s opening lineup with two concepts: Bully Burger and fried chicken spot Buttermilk and Honey, both of which exited the food hall last year.
In the two years it was open Hatch Local continuously tweaked its business model. After initially opening only with counter service and QR codes, it later added table service and physical menus. The food hall also has a full bar and had a coffee stand that closed last year, both which were operated by Hatch.
“We learned a lot about what didn’t work and what did,” Harkless said. “(Hatch is) somewhat doing things that haven’t been done before, so with that we’re going to be learning along the way ourselves.”
Clifford of Fat Kid Sandwiches said she’d previously worked out of the Union Market food hall in D.C. and noted the differences between their operations and Hatch Local’s.
“I think this food hall’s very different than a lot of the other ones,” Clifford said.
“(Union Market) has way, way, way more vendors and they’re much smaller-scale. I think there’s like 100 different vendors and very, very few of them are anywhere near the size that all the businesses in Hatch Local are. It’s more like a market and less food court-style.”