It’s a zero-sum game for food halls in Fulton Market, as reps for Fulton Galley announced it will close on Friday, November 15. This news comes a day after Time Out Market announced that its food hall down the street will open on Thursday, November 21.
Fulton Galley opened in June with five restaurants: Steingold’s of Chicago (Jewish-inspired deli), Italianette (pastas), Pink Salt (Northeastern Thai), Fairview (sandwiches with rotisserie meats), and Taco Mucho (Mexican-American tacos, burgers, and more). There’s also a bar on the west side of the food hall where management imagined local breweries would throw bottle release parties or where dating apps could host mixers.
Tyler Benson, co-founder of Galley Group — the food hall’s parent company — made the following statement:
“Fulton Galley will be closing on Friday, November 15th. There were various factors that led to this difficult decision. We will be working closely with our chefs and our employees to provide assistance as they find their next opportunities. We greatly appreciate the support from our guests and our community over the past several months.”
The restaurant owners were notified on Thursday morning. Aaron Steingold said he had an inkling that a closure was impending. Galley management hasn’t responded to emails in weeks. Steingold’s original deli on Irving Park continues to prosper, but customer flow in Fulton Market/West Loop was different, stymied by constant road construction, difficulty finding car parking, and a cluster of competing restaurants.
“The food hall was very well curated,” Steingold said. “I definitely learned, just as a small business owner, to maybe stop taking so many chances, I guess.”
Steingold said his Fulton Market staff built a fanbase and he hopes to find a location to serve customers closer to downtown in 2020. He also wants to expand the kitchen at his original location to ramp up bagel production. They’ll still offer catering to downtown neighborhoods, including the Loop, Steingold added.
While Fulton Galley allowed Steingold to serve its sandwiches and bagels to more customers, it also provided an incubation space for chefs who want to eventually open their own stand-alone restaurants.
Galley Group is based in Pittsburgh. They also have halls in Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Detroit. The chef and owner of Pink Salt, Palita Sriratana, said company co-founder Ben Mantica left Galley about a week ago. Galley confirmed Mantica’s departure. The Detroit food hall, Fort Street Galley, has only one of its original restaurants left after opening about a year ago.
Tenants had year-long agreements that allowed Galley to take 30 percent of sales from restaurants. That hindered the chance to broker a deal with a delivery company. Italianette was the only Fulton Galley restaurant that delivered. Sriratana said that Galley would agree to drop its take to 15 percent for deliveries, but companies like GrubHub and DoorDash wouldn’t be so empathetic. Sriratana negotiated with those third-party delivery companies without success. The lowest they’d agree to was taking 22 percent. Adding that to Galley’s take, 37 percent didn’t make deliveries profitable.
“It really suffocated us,” Sriratana said.
Pink Salt has earned rave reviews and Sriratana plans to hold pop-ups and is moving toward opening her own restaurant. She’s refined her vision while at Galley and now envisions a cocktail lounge-type spot. On Sunday over at the Plant in Back of the Yards, Pink Salt and Whiner Beer are having a hog roast. It’s an ideal farewell for now, Sriratana said.
There would be more competition after the larger, three-level Time Out Market opens, hovering like a Death Star, a five-minute walk west of Fulton Galley. Time Out’s opening has been delayed — originally planned for the summer, the date was pushed to September until its announced opening on November 21. Fulton Galley owners always knew they’d have to eventually compete with Time Out, so restaurant owners said the timing of their closing and Time Out’s opening wasn’t purely coincidental.