Entrepreneurs Nick Ballias and Dan Goldberg are partnering with Chef Georgeann Leaming to create a multi-menu, delivery-only restaurant concept that will have something for everyone.
By Matt Skoufalos | January 25, 2022
If your family can’t settle on a single place from which to order dinner for everyone, relief is on the horizon.
Cherry Hill is soon to welcome Foodie Hall, a multi-concept, delivery-only “e-restaurant” from partners Dan Goldberg and Nick Ballias.
The project will unite six individual menus representing different culinary influences beneath a single roof at 1931 Olney Avenue in the Cherry Hill Business Park.
Ballias, who runs Wingcraft Kitchen and Beer Bar in Atlantic City, and Goldberg, who spent five years as a regional head at linens management service PureStar Group, connected through volunteer efforts with the Boys and Girls Club of Atlantic City.
In 2019, the two started discussing concepts for a delivery-only restaurant, chatting about industry trends, including ghost kitchens.
When the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic hit New Jersey in the spring of 2020, and the dining industry was forced to make dramatic changes amid mandated closures and capacity limits, the two concretized a number of their ideas into a concept they call Foodie Hall.
Goldberg said Foodie Hall is meant to solve the problems of delivery for restaurants that aren’t set up to accommodate it, while also offering the varied menu options of multiple eateries under a single roof.
“Let’s say you’re opening up a Domino’s,” Goldberg said. “You can’t sell Asian or Mexican food out of a kitchen made to make pizza. Our kitchen is designed to be endlessly flexible.”
“A lot of ghost kitchens lack focus,” Ballias said. “It’s a way to make more money slinging food out the back door and calling it someone else’s.
“We wanted to have the focus on each concept be as good,” he said.
Their first hire was Executive Chef Georgeann Leaming, a Woodstown native whose last pre-pandemic assignment was chef de cuisine at (the now-shuttered) R2L in Philadelphia.
Leaming, who also won an episode of Chopped in 2014, and worked for Gordon Ramsey at a pair of locations in Atlantic City, impressed Goldberg and Ballias with the depth of her culinary techniques and versatility of her menus.
“We needed a really good chef to oversee everything,” Goldberg said.
“[Leaming] is a legitimately top-notch chef who’s capable of creating different cuisines.”
“One of the strengths we noticed with her right away was the food she creates is so diverse,” Ballias said; “Asian, Italian, Mediterranean. She’s wonderful, and we’re lucky to have her.”
Together, the trio hammered out distinct menus for six different restaurant concepts (although Leaming said she’s got plans for as many as 10 in the drawer):
- Canting Wok – a noodle bar serving ramen bowls, rice dishes, and dumplings
- Criss Crust – a pizzeria offering Neapolitan and Detroit-style pies, hoagies, and salads
- Dando Tacos – a taqueria serving birria-style gourmet tacos, burritos, and rice bowls
- DaNick’s Craft Burgers – Pat La Frieda beef burgers, chicken sandwiches, and salads
- Fornire Italian Kitchen – a slightly upscale bistro menu with handmade pastas and classic Italian entrees
- Simply Fowl – a “Jersey fried chicken” concept built around brined, fried chicken thigh sandwiches, tenders, and salads
Within the framework of Foodie Hall, however, each of these menu items is prepared inside a single kitchen, with individual stations set up for each concept.
“We’re an ‘and’ restaurant, not an ‘or’ restaurant,” Goldberg said, indicating the ampersand in its branding.
Putting several options on offer from a single, customer-facing entity also ensures that “anybody can order really what they want,” he said, including those with dietary restrictions.
Leaming is developing a dedicated menu for vegans and vegetarians that will include Tindle plant-based chicken, a first for the area.
For a chef who likes to stay busy—during the pandemic, she took an online food photography class, taught another at her alma mater, the Academy of Culinary Arts in Mays Landing, and refined her own cooking—Leaming said Foodie Hall will keep her head and her hands occupied.
She’s also excited at the opportunity to stretch out in the brand-new, purpose-built kitchen, which has “gotten a great response from our employees.
“I want them to be excited about it,” Leaming said. “If they’re excited, it means the food’s great. Everybody will be trained at every station, which means better teamwork and opportunity for growth.
“A lot of ghost kitchens just came up out of the pandemic as a need to utilize that space that’s already there to make some money,” she said. “We want great quality, and to have fun with things.”
Although the business will open with limited versions of its menus, Ballias said it’ll expand quickly as its employees become more comfortable with the recipes.
Delivery will be available through third-party services like GrubHub and DoorDash, but Foodie Hall could add its own drivers if customer volumes demand it.
Although the restaurant doesn’t offer dine-in service, patrons are welcome to pick up their meals onsite, and Ballias said that customers who order directly through Foodie Hall will benefit from special offers as well.
“We’re happy if they find us through DoorDash, but we want people to order through us, too,” he said. “They’re going to save money and get coupons.”
In addition to improving upon the ghost kitchen concept, Ballias and Goldberg said Foodie Hall also offers a chance for the pair to return to their connection over charitable efforts.
For every meal ordered, the business will donate the financial equivalent of another meal to the nonprofit Feeding America through its Meal4Meal program.
“Dan and I wanted to have a way to do good for others,” Ballias said.
“Feeding America is someone we can team up with, and our monetary donation goes farther with them.
They work directly with community food banks, so it hits local.”
If the concept proves itself in Cherry Hill, the duo plan to open additional locations within a year. Foodie Hall is also available for franchisees who want to run with the concept in different geographic territories.
“We are from South Jersey, so we want to keep it somewhat close to home,” Goldberg said. “First and foremost we want to have fun.
“If we’re donating meals and creating jobs, we know our restaurant will be a success as well,” he said.
Foodie Hall doesn’t have an opening date yet, but Ballias and Goldberg said the business should be operational in the coming weeks, operating from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
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