Unlocking the key components of a food precinct that represents now and can transform for the future
While the ever changing and increasingly demanding customer wants and needs grow, it is crucial to understand principles that constitute successful hospitality and how these affect F&B master planning. Furthermore, with expenditure within the cafe and restaurant category on the rise, developers and operators need to refocus and invest in the planning and development of their F&B precincts to ensure they provide their customers with what they want and need, now and in the future. How do you do that? The customer experience and providing hospitality is the key.
What is the customer experience?
Today’s customer wants an inclusive and immersive experience that entertains them, provides a social meeting place and offers cuisine that is considered ‘destinational’ at all price points. This is proven by our urban communities, such as those found in the heart of Melbourne, who are now enjoying the clustering of a diverse range of cuisines and service styles (like the thirty plus food options provided at The Emporium Melbourne). The development of these Cafe Courts and smart casual dining outlets within retail centres show their success in consistent media reports which positively regard the food, choices, new brands, food quality and desire to dine at these retail centres. The key to their success? the experience - all of these aspects brought together provide the customer with a positive encounter that they return for time and time again.
What is hospitality?
Hospitality is about making someone feel welcome, happy and creating a positive and memorable experience, every time. Whilst we see hospitality demonstrated in our high street cafes and fine dining restaurants, it has not been as considered when it comes to shopping centre dining. This was acceptable when food outlets were used a fillers but now, as centres use food to draw in their customers, the hospitality of the food and beverage outlets needs to be elevated to match the hospitality of the retail offering within a centre. Luxury must extend across all categories. The demand for an enhanced shopping experience is growing which means food hospitality must be embraced particularly if you want to stay competitive with the proliferating number of pubs, cafes and restaurants who are offering this already.
Problems we face with F&B precincts
There are a number of issues that currently exist for retail centres both in Australia and around the globe.
- Failure to Plan | with food fast becoming the draw card for retail centres, careful and customer-centric master planning of the F&B offering is important if not integral to the success of the centre however, developers can skip this step and therefore risk the centre’s reputation as a dining destination.
- Lack of Investment | operators can undervalue the importance of customer research, service standards, food quality, staff training, visual merchandising and menu development. This results in a failure to maximise their sales opportunities and a disgruntled customer who is likely to not return.
- Operational hours | can inhibit an experience calling on the need for improved night time trade to accommodate hungry customers who are ready to spend and have an experience beyond traditional trading times (i.e. dinner time).
Developers and operators need to assess these problems and implement strategies to overcome them in order to provide the upmost level of hospitality standards and give the customer the experience they want.
FOCUS ON HOSPITALITY AND EXPERIENCE
Competition for the food dollar is coming from all angles so food operators need to ensure they are providing an engaging experience that encourages an increase in spend. The Grounds of Alexandria, in the industrial area of Alexandria, Sydney is the perfect example of this where the operator has thought outside the box providing a completely immersive experience to their customers from fresh juice stands in the grounds to a full-sized deli that will have you walking out fully stocked up, plus a farm with a resident pig to keep everyone entertained. Ultimately, by implementing all these points of hospitality and experience the operator has increased the customer dwell time and therefore, the customer spend. This concept is one that is highly applicable to today’s food retail landscape and new, inventive spaces are popping up all over the place including The Greens, North Sydney (pictured centre) and Hawker Lane at Westfield, Chatswood (pictured right).
Customer spending is a true reflection of how they react positively to new and improved food experiences. We need to find a strong point of difference for our retail centres by completely rethinking how we see our customers, understand their needs (not categorising them by age), connect with and communicate with them (and their likes and desires) when it comes to food and hospitality experiences. By building a precinct with these foundations, the future of food in that precinct will thrive as a customer-centric and destinational space.
Now that we’ve covered the foundational components of creating a great food offering, stay tuned for part two of this series where we look into the specifics of people, place and product of successful and sustainable F&B precincts that speak to the customer of today and the future.