Arts, Culture and Education: An Interview with Food Consultant, Fiona Taplin

We take five with Fiona Taplin, Senior Food Consultant at Future Food to talk about what is happening with food and hospitality in Arts, Culture and Education (ACE) precincts, who is leading the way and what the future of food looks like in these spaces. 

Food and Hospitality begins the journey! Whether it’s a quick glass of wine and a light snack before a show or a coffee before a lecture- it is the beginning of an experience, one that will either make or break a day!
— Fiona Taplin, Senior Food Consultant
The NGV's 2015 Pavilion placed in the gardens of the building serving up food, coffee and the 5pm Aperol Spritz (image viaThe Design Files)

The NGV's 2015 Pavilion placed in the gardens of the building serving up food, coffee and the 5pm Aperol Spritz (image viaThe Design Files)


1. What can food and hospitality bring to an arts, culture or education (ACE) space?

Consumers have become very discerning when it comes to food and hospitality. We have the most incredible diversity of food (at accessible price points) on our door steps so our expectations are very high. We want to keep people within the ACE spaces for longer so they can immerse themselves and walk away saying “brilliant!”. Great hospitality experiences are way more than the food, it’s all about how you feel in the space, the design intent, entertainment, comfort levels and convenience. Good food brings people and makes them want to stay, and a well-planned hospitality strategy attracts the best F&B operators and focuses on happy customers and sales maximisation. Food opens up doors to deliver the best experience possible. 

 

2. What are the main changes that are occurring for food in these spaces? 

Two of the biggest changes we’re seeing is the externalisation of food and beverage and the focus on tailoring bespoke solutions aligned with the customer base and client’s business ethos. Consumers now hold the power with so many great food and beverage operators and boutique caterers (who are willing to be flexible and tailor their concepts and business models) to consider partnering with. The old way of viewing food and hospitality as an afterthought or add-on service has long gone. Food and hospitality is now a major part of the experience and will in many cases deliver the unique point of difference. 

Traditionally cafes and restaurants within ACE spaces were largely hidden within the architectural structure, within the campus grounds or within office towers, restricting the potential revenues and customer base. Although there is still a need for internalised food and beverage options (catering and retail) it’s commercially savvy practice to offer a balance. If the project presents an opportunity to program street facing F&B concepts, where the local residents, CBD workers, students etc can easily access and enjoy the space with family and friends, the opportunity should be explored. 

The benefits of appealing to the greater market, connecting with the public realm and by programming and planning street facing food and beverage include, greater financial returns greater visibility, greater potential to form partnerships with reputable hospitality gurus (who will bring a new customer base to the precinct), greater flexibility with the overall financial modelling, leasing and contract requirements (not putting all the eggs in one basket!). Ultimately the aim is to provide the best possible food and hospitality solution to add value to the precinct, draw the crowds and entertain the customers!

 

3. And, who is leading the way with these changes?

Focusing on Australia and New Zealand, at the moment I’m loving the small hospitality groups. Hip Group based in Auckland have incredible concepts and hopefully we’ll start seeing their concepts in ACE spaces soon. A special mention goes to Melbourne’s Arts Precinct who have a number of major masterplanning projects and regenerative strategies in various stages of planning and development on the go. Watch this space!

One of Hip Group's award-winning restaurants, Ortolana in Auckland, NZ

Amano - Hip Group's latest restaurant concepts in Auckland, NZ

 

4. What role do you see food and hospitality playing in these ACE spaces in the future?

Food and Hospitality begins the journey! Whether it’s a quick glass of wine and a light snack before a show or a coffee before a lecture- it is the beginning of an experience, one that will either make or break a day! Good food and hospitality adds value to your asset, your campus, your arts precinct. View food and hospitality as a strategic tool to connect with a broader audience, extend your member base or enhance “life on campus”. 

We want people to stay longer within these spaces and love the experience! We will see a focus on quality products in design driven environments, we will see more curated catering solutions, we will see ACE spaces become dining destinations of choice, we will see mixed financial modelling and combined leasing arrangements becoming more prevalent eg: lease arrangements (short and long term) commercial catering contracts and some in-house delivery, we will see caterers upping the ante and delivering their unique and tailored spin on high street benchmark food and beverage. 

 

5. What is your goal when you are creating a food strategy for an arts, culture or education food precinct? 

My goal simply is to align the strategy with the client’s core vision and requirements, and gain an insight into who the customer is and what they want. Then tailor an innovative, exciting and customer-centric solution!


Fiona Taplin | Senior Food Consultant at Future Food

Fiona has over 25 years of F&B experience, from establishing her own restaurants to senior management roles with leading F&B organisations. Fiona has specialised consulting and operating skills in major corporate catering accounts, including National Australia Bank, EY, Marsh and McLennan and CPA. Fiona has also led a number national and international masterplanning, operational and concept development projects, including Reimagine Arts Centre Melbourne, Auckland International Airport, University of Melbourne and QVM Regeneration.