Detroit is getting another food hall and this time it’s heading to downtown. The Pittsburgh-based company Galley Group finalized a lease with Bedrock Real Estate this week to fill a 8,646-square-foot space inside downtown Detroit’s Federal Reserve Building at 160 W. Fort St.
While food halls have emerged over the past several years as a growing trend in cities across the U.S., Galley Group’s founders Benjamin Mantica and Tyler Benson model their halls after tech incubators. Tested chefs and would-be restaurateurs from across the U.S. are invited to apply to open restaurants in Galley food hall spaces and are selected through a competitive vetting process. The applications for the four restaurant spaces at Detroit’s Galley are now open. Pitches must be submitted by May 1.
After filling out the extensive application, culinary teams are then narrowed down by Galley to a group of finalists. Benson and Mantica say they evaluate applicants holistically, determining whether individuals have a team in place, a strong vision for their brand, and a menu that looks different than what’s currently offered in the area. “We’re hoping that all four chefs have some sort of connection to Detroit,” Mantica says.
That group is then brought together to pitch their idea and serve a dish from the menu to a panel of local entrepreneurs and restaurant experts from the city where the food hall is located. The panel then selects the winning restaurants to open in Galley for a minimum stay of one year. “We want these places to be owned by the community,” Benson says.
Unlike a typical lease that requires down payments, security deposits, and rent, Galley employs a profit-sharing model where around 30 percent of each restaurant’s revenue is returned to the company. Galley also takes care of the build out for the space, the insurance, utilities, and marketing for partnering restaurants. This results in a relatively low cost of entry for the operator — around $7,500 for inventory and labor (Galley tells Eater that most restaurant owners can break even within a month of opening). This allows the owners to save and reinvest that money in a future brick-and-mortar restaurant space, Benson says.
At the end of the first year, restaurants have the option to extend their lease, move on to their own independent space, or scrap their idea. “We basically exist to provide this unique platform - both for established chefs who already own a business and are looking to test a new concept, and for talented chefs who are ready to break out on their own for the first time,” Benson says.
Mantica and Benson are focusing on cities throughout the Rust Belt, where there are opportunities for growth and a strong base of customers ages 25 to 35. Since launching in 2015 at Pittsburgh’s Smallman Galley, the company has gone on to open a second location in its home city, Federal Galley, and is set to open a third food hall in Cleveland this summer. Detroit will be Galley’s fourth outpost.
Of the restaurants that have opened in Pittsburgh’s Galleys so far, Mantica and Benson tell Eater that at least one group has gone on to open their own restaurant and several others have brick-and-mortar projects in the works. Others used the Galley experience as a low-cost testing ground for their ideas and determined that opening a larger version of their concept wasn’t a right fit.
Kyle Evans will be designing Galley with Rossetti as the lead architects. The cavernous space will feature a central bar flanked by four open kitchens and communal tables. The as-of-yet-unnamed Detroit Galley will seat roughly 225 people inside with an additional 30 to 40 seats on the patio.
Food at Galleys is served on traditional china rather than disposable plates and the halls offer a full-service bar program featuring cocktails and beer. Mantica says the bar in Detroit will focus on sourcing locally-made spirits and Michigan craft beers poured from around 25 taps. The restaurants will open for lunch and dinner daily.
Galley is aiming to announce the four participating chefs by late summer in preparation for a late fall opening in Detroit, ahead of the holidays.
Thanks to ample space and a burgeoning food scene, Detroit’s food hall landscape is booming. In addition to Galley in Detroit, the city is set to receive a hall constructed from shipping containers in Cass Cooridor this year called Detroit Shipping Co. Another “European-style” food hall project is slated to hit the East Riverfront in 2020 as part of a redevelopment of the Stone Soap building.