Time Out Market Has Helped Spark the Revival of the Food Hall

Didier Souillat Time Out Market
Didier Souillat, CEO Time Out Market, stands in their Miami location (Photo by Arévalo Photography)

Interview with Didier Souillat, CEO Time Out Market

Didier Souillat joined Time Out Market as CEO in February 2016 to lead the global expansion of the dining and culture experience.

Souillat has considerable experience in both the retail and hospitality world. Prior to joining Time Out Market, he served as Executive Vice President for the internationally renowned Hakkasan brand, overseeing the company’s global restaurant portfolio. He’s held senior management positions in some of the U.K.’s top high-end retail brands, including Selfridges and Harrods, where he was Director of Food Halls & Restaurants. He also served as Director Food & Restaurants at McArthur Glen and as Managing Director at Daylesford Organic. After graduating in Hospitality, Food & Beverage from the Ecole Lausanne Hotel Management School in Switzerland, he started his career in the hotel industry, working in cities around the world such as Dakar, Hong Kong, Nagoya, Bahrain, and Singapore.

Where did you get the inspiration for Time Out Market?

In 2014, Time Out Lisbon editors turned a historic market hall in the city into Time Out Market, creating a physical representation of Time Out’s editorial recommendations and cultural insight. A place that previously housed the city’s top food retail vendors was transformed to bring together the best chefs, drinks and cultural experiences based on the editorial curation Time Out has been known for since 1968. In the following years, millions of locals and tourists visited, and the team at Time Out decided to roll out this unique, editorially curated food, cultural market, and community hub to cities around the world.

Instead of simply talking about food culture, Time Out brings the community together to experience the greatest hits their cities have to offer. 

What makes Time Out Market different from other food halls?

Time Out Market is unique, in that it’s the only global food hall experience curated by the people who know each city’s food and cultural scene inside out. We like to say, “If it’s good, it goes in the magazine, if it’s great, it goes into the Market.” Besides the top-tier food and drinks, award-winning chefs and restaurateurs, what sets us apart are the many experiential and cultural events we host regularly. We focus on creating curated experiences that showcase our connection to the local community and give our guests a reason to come back regularly. Key activations drive footfall on slower days and times and make Time Out Market a destination on key “going out” days of the week.

Another differentiator is that you will not find a two-top or four-top at any of our locations. We’ve worked to own the “communal dining” space since the start of the brand in 2014. It is a sacred element you will find at all of our locations and one we feel will be 2022’s strongest dining trend. It works for the most straightforward reason: human connection, no matter the size or format. Communal tables bring friends, strangers, or solo diners together to eat, drink, and enjoy. Something many of us missed during the pandemic. Food brings people together. 

Is one of the best parts of Time Out Market knowing how it helps bring the community and business together? 

Absolutely and it’s tied to what sets us apart. Our team is always on the lookout for talent and experiences to bring to our Markets. This approach ensures that the Market remains not just essential for the local community and its vendors, but that it also elevates its surrounding neighborhood and drives traffic to the area as a beacon for locals and tourists alike. 

Which local charities do you support, and how? 

Our Love Local initiative is a platform for local artists, small businesses and chefs to gain exposure among local consumers and build Time Out Market brand goodwill as an advocate for the community. Through this, we’ve partnered with several local city charities throughout the year. Some examples include our most recent “Virgil Forever” mural installation at Time Out Market Chicago where a portion of the proceeds from the event and bar sales raised funds towards the Virgil Abloh™ Post-Modern” Scholarship Fund, which grants scholarships to foster equity and inclusion within the fashion industry. In Boston, our Market regularly works and supports contributions to multiple charities, including Bagly; The Travis Roy Foundation; The Greg Hill Foundation; Black Owned Boston; and Women’s Owned Market. 

And at Time Out Market New York, our concessionaire, The Migrant Kitchen, has a refugee dinner program. All of the dishes sold at their Time Out Market location will amount to a meal in need for every $12 spent. 

What’s your take on the other food halls that have opened around the country? 

Historically speaking, we don’t believe food halls are a new concept – they’ve been around since the 1950s in Singapore, where they are known as a hawker centre. But we are excited that there are now over four-hundred food halls opening in the United States. We will always look for ways to differentiate ourselves and the Time Out Market brand but are propelled by the public’s appetite, so to speak, to welcome these venues into their communities.

As we emerge from the pandemic, what’s changed in Time Out Market? 

Much remains the same: great food, hand-crafted cocktails, and a rotating curation of beers and spirits, plus the cultural events that we’ve become known for. During the pandemic, we offered convenience through a Time Out Market App for the first time, and we continue to do this today. Market-goers can choose to order directly from the vendor or simply from the app. 

Where I see us developing the most will be in our approach to designing spaces so that, as much as possible, we can enjoy and expand our use of the outdoors. In our Time Out Market New York location, for example, our 5th-floor rooftop is the location of our bar and hosts many of our events in a format that allows for indoor/outdoor configurations that we’ve been able to utilize for our visitors’ comfort throughout the pandemic. Future Time Out Market locations will incorporate more outdoor seating.

Takeout and Delivery have become a big part of the industry, is that true with Time Out Market? 

While I wouldn’t say it’s the biggest part of Time Out Market, many of our Markets work with delivery apps to incorporate takeaway and delivery as viable options for our customers and vendors alike. But it is only a small part of our business. Time Out Market is a very bright space – we encourage our guests to live the full Time Out experience. 

What’s your read on the shortages/supply chain that are impacting the industry? Your strategies for Time Out Market short and long term? 

As part of our local focus, our concessionaires select their own suppliers locally so we don’t rely on global importers, limiting our food air miles and also supporting local businesses. As such, we currently aren’t seeing a big impact on our supply chain. Our vendors typically have 6-8 items on their menu, which enables them to adapt to the season and changes in availability very quickly.

Crystal ball: Where are we headed with food halls/Time Out Market?

Our crystal ball shows us a Time Out Market in the best cities around the world. Already, Time Out Market exists across three continents – North America, Europe, and the Middle East. In the coming five years and beyond, we will be opening locations in Porto, Abu Dhabi, London, Prague, and many more destinations around the world. Any great “foodie” city with homegrown talent can expect us knocking at their door in the next few years. 

Learn more about Time Out Market at their website

Joyce Appelman is the SCOOP News Editor and Senior Contributing Writer for Total Food Service and previously the National Communications Director for C-CAP, Careers through Culinary Arts Program. An industry leader supporting education and scholarships, she has been instrumental in opening career opportunities for many young people in the foodservice industry. Email her at joyceappelman@gmail.com