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4 Secrets to a Successful Food Hall Operation

The Golden Mill is an award-winning food hall offering amazing self-pour drinks, unmatched cuisine and the best views in Golden, CO. When they opened in early 2021, in the middle of the pandemic, people questioned their sanity. Fortunately, they found guests were really excited to get back out and see their friends and family. And with a large open space, garage doors and an expansive rooftop bar, The Golden Mill Food Hall has become a must-visit destination in the historic town.  

Named Best New Food Hall 2022 by Denver’s Westword.com, and Best Food Hall to Fuel Up After an Adventure by 528.com, The Golden Mill Food Hall is achieving widespread recognition for the quality of their ambience, food and drinks and overall experience.

Owner Susan Ganter, and General Manager, Marcel Templet, sat down with GoTab a few weeks ago to share some of the secrets of their success. 

“The uniqueness of the experience is what draws a lot of people. It’s easy to come in and get The Golden Mill Card and access drinks on the beer wall and use it at all of the vendors. We’re quickly becoming one of those places where you come when you have friends in town, or are going out with a new group, it’s a really great experience.”

Marcel Templet, General Manager

1. Create Magical Moments

In The Golden Mill scenario, the guest experience starts at the host stand. The host associates the guest’s credit card to The Golden Mill RFID card(s). That association creates a “running tab” for their entire experience. It’s like a pass to get whatever a guest wants. They don’t have to go through an interface every time they want to order something. They just tap and go, whether it’s the beverage wall, or at any of their five different vendors. Everything shows up on a single check. GoTab can even set spending limits on individual RFID cards, or send reminders that a guest is approaching their pre-set spending limit. Guests really appreciate the itemized receipts. They can get the receipt via text, scanning a QR code, or (eventually) will also be able to scan a QR code to split the bill. 

2. Address All Generations

With the higher cost of everything, consumers want more than just a meal when they invest their time and money to go out. That’s why food halls need to raise their game to create enjoyable experiences for all stages of life. The Golden Mill uses its large indoor and outdoor spaces to connect with their community. 

The versatility of their space means they have something to offer virtually everyone. They’re “winning the dog crowd” with their outdoor patio. Their rooftop bar is equipped with fire pits and heaters so they can even operate comfortably in inclement weather. They host live music and families love to drop in since their kids can safely explore the venue and purchase what they want without having to drag their parents along.  And because they don’t require reservations, The Golden Mill has become the go-to destination for the locals and out-of-town visitors and have even been known to host impromptu wedding parties. 

3. Break Down Business Silos

We’ve said it before, but it stands repeating: try as they might, most food halls have a crappy guest experience. It’s not that they don’t want to do better. It’s just that their restaurant technology is typically siloed with each licensee choosing their own POS system and guests having to create an order at each distinct location. 

It’s not uncommon for people working in a food hall to have to direct guests to another venue for a specific dish or cocktail. Breweries also have this problem. Many craft brewers don’t have a full kitchen on site so they contract with a food truck to provide food at their venue. They know that selling food helps them sell more beer, but their standard POS doesn’t make it easy to streamline the guest experience. Wouldn’t it be great if you could order a beer and a taco at the same time?

GoTab allows Food Halls, breweries and other entertainment venues to combine multiple orders from multiple businesses to a single check and one payment for the guest. At The Golden Mill, it’s all associated with the RFID card. For a venue without a beer wall, or a craft brewer, it can all be associated with a single QR. The point is that the guest should feel like they’re interacting with a single entity instead of having to create a unique order at each different businesses associated with the Food Hall or Brewery. 

GoTab also eliminates silos on the back end. Now the accounting team does a lot less work – eliminating all of the spreadsheets they previously needed to manage. The money goes where it needs to go, which has taken hours out of the week on accounting and reconciling things like percentages, fees, etc. the process has enabled The Golden Mill to maintain trust with their licensees. It also helped that the implementation team at GoTab set clear expectations through support, making themselves available and following through on their commitments.

Licensees also now have the information they need to project their hourly sales and what their labor needs will be, which is particularly important heading into the slower, winter months.

Best Practices for Working with Licensees

4. Empower Food Hall Staff

While you’re looking to create magical moments for guests, and break down silos for licensees, you should also be thinking about how you can make the work experience enjoyable for staff. Everyone is focused on how to keep their staff happy and food halls are no exception. Features like being able to open and close checks quickly, being able to close out all checks at the same time at the end of the night, are all super staff-friendly. It often comes down to the little things that can make or break a shift and give your staff efficiencies that save them time and let them focus on providing a great guest experience. What if you could combine roles? For example, using the GoTab KDS, the expo and the line cook can be the same person. This frees up labor and maximizes the value of the staff you have, allowing you to increase wages. At The Golden Mill, staff have a good time at work because it’s so much easier for the managers and staff to pull off a great service. The overall morale of the team has improved.

Efficient Operations Improve the Employee Experience, by A Lot

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