The idea of having a public space allocated for the sale of food products is as old as civilization itself, starting with open air markets in the streets. Street vendors selling already prepared food came along sometime later, but remain popular to this day. Hot dog stands and food trucks are popular across the world, and have been for quite some time. However, having a number of restaurants and food vendors all grouped together inside of a building is a relatively new concept that can be argued to have started with food courts.
Generally, food courts are an indoor plaza within a larger facility that contains multiple food vendors and a common area for customers to sit and eat as well. The first of these food courts was built in a Toronto shopping center in the early nineteen seventies, and soon after they became ubiquitous worldwide in every shopping center and mall across the globe. As shopping malls have become less popular, so have food courts. They have been usurped by something called food halls instead. Food courts typically contain a number of fast food chains like McDonalds, Burger King, or Subway. Food Halls, on the other hand, typically contain a mixture of artisanal local restaurants, butcher shops, and other food selling businesses like bakeries.
Food halls originated several decades ago in the United Kingdom, and are typically found there within a specific section of department stores. Outside of the United Kingdom, and sometimes within it, food halls are often unconnected to department stores, operating independently within their own buildings. Food halls are becoming more and more popular as time goes by, seen a classier and more trendy alternative to a food court that only contains fast food restaurants. One new trend within the food hall world is something called a virtual food hall. A virtual food hall is different from a typical food hall in a handful of ways, but the core concept remains unchanged.
In a virtual food hall, rather than having a number of different stores and restaurants operating separately, they allow the customers to order from a bunch of different food vendors all at one digital kiosk. This is a kind of operating system that is already being used across the country at various airport terminals, in which customers are allowed to pick from several different food options and order off of iPads. It is also similar to the kind of system used at most colleges and universities, where the customers can obtain food from a number of different vendors which all share one common cashier. At a virtual food hall, you can browse and purchase a variety of different food products by using a simple self service screen, eliminating the need for a cashier.