How One Food Hall Serves 18,000 People on Their Lunch Break
When you leave your desk for a lunch break, the clock starts ticking. You may have to make a few phone calls or run an errand. And you definitely need to eat something, which likely means grabbing a delicious, swiftly served lunch near your office.
There is no time to dally with a weekday work lunch, and nobody knows this better than the restaurants near business districts. To learn more about the effort that goes into getting you fed and back to your desk quickly, we turned to the experts at Revival Food Hall. Located in the middle of downtown Chicago, Revival’s natural state is a massive lunch rush. Below, we crunched the numbers on their smooth operation, sharing a glimpse of all the hard work that goes into managing a successful lunch rush.
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The size of the food hall, in square feet
And it fills up quickly. In the morning, there are generally a few dozen people enjoying coffee at a cafe in the food hall. But as the day goes on, hundreds of people squeeze inside the expansive building—and they’re all in a rush. “People are here to eat and get out,” says Justin Anderson, the director of operations at Revival Food Hall.
The approximate number of lunches Revival serves throughout the week
To put that in perspective, there were roughly 18,000 athletes, coaches, and staff members onsite at Rio’s 2016 games. Revival Food Hall may not be feeding professional athletes, but don’t underestimate the hunger pangs of busy office workers—lunch hours can get extremely busy, and the lines there often wind outside.
The number of diners that visit the food hall for lunch each Friday
“We know by Tuesday into Wednesday, and definitely by Thursday and Friday, people are definitely out spending the money and taking longer, leisurely lunches,” says Anderson. On Monday and Tuesday, there are about 2,500 lunch diners. On Wednesday, it’s closer to 3,500, and Thursday it’s roughly 4,500.
Pounds of meat consumed each week at one of the hall’s vendors
That includes portions of the cured, sliced pork belly on the Secret Sandwich, an “utterly decadent” item, says Tegan Brace, the GM at Danke, a charcuterie-focused sandwich shop and wine bar. The Secret Sandwich was invented by staff members at Danke’s sister restaurant (Table, Donkey and Stick), who came up with a combination of duck-liver mousse, gruyere cheese, arugula, whole-grain mustard, and smoked, pickled onions on a house baguette.
The number of total line busters and greeters during the lunch rush
People are always on their cell phones, which means they aren’t paying attention to the task at hand – deciding what to order for lunch. At Revival, this indecision slows down the vendors. That’s why the food hall has “line busters and a greeter at every line handing out menus and explaining the menu and pushing people through the line,” Anderson says.
The number of miles Anderson and his team traveled to research food halls before opening Revival.
That research included visiting eateries across the country, from Seattle’s Pike Place to LA’s Shake Shack, where Anderson watched visitors go through the line from start to finish. “It was really interesting to just view the dynamic of that,” he says.
A lot of information was garnered, including the decision to employ a buzzer paging system at the food hall. Anderson liked the buzzers for their long-reaching radius, “If someone wants to walk over and grab coffee while they’re waiting, they can grab a coffee. By the time they get their coffee, their food’s ready.”
In the food hall’s first full week, it faced a nightmarish situation—the POS system went down during the lunch rush. “It was tough,” Anderson says. “You go into offline mode of some sort, or you use old-school credit-card transactions, have people in the front of the line take orders and relay them back quicker, because with the POS system down, you couldn’t really ring in orders, you had to call them back old school.” Despite this, everyone kept their cool, and sales were only affected by about 15 percent. “I think it speaks volumes to the people that we have operating within the food hall.”
Photos courtesy of Revival Food Hall.