Food Precincts: The Social Glue of the 21st Century

The food and beverage category has been growing strongly and does not appear to be slowing down. When we look at the fact that Australians alone are spending $45 billion per year on eating out, it comes as no surprise why developments and precincts are filling up the space with more food and beverage offerings to raise more business. What is it that is driving this growth in the food and beverage category? What is drawing the customer in more than ever? and what makes them see value in food so much as to invest into it? The fact is, the food and beverage category is the customer’s grounding force in this modern world. Food and beverage, and overall hospitality provides an opportunity to meet, greet and eat together in spaces that cannot be experienced via technology. A good food and beverage precinct acts as the social glue, keeping people bound by human connection - something that Today’s fast-paced, hi-tech population craves more of. This is why there is great value in creating hospitality space that speaks to the people. 

 Iberica at Canary Wharf offers al fresco dining space for people to enjoy their meal and drinks in (i mage via  Iberica  )

Iberica at Canary Wharf offers al fresco dining space for people to enjoy their meal and drinks in (image via Iberica)

Barangaroo is a fine example of a space that has achieved human connectivity amidst the busy, business district madness. The developers of this space saw an opportunity to provide the workers from the surrounding buildings with a place of respite. With backgammon boards on the communal tables and up-to-date lifestyle magazines to enjoy, Barangaroo has built itself around tuning out from work and tuning in to one another. They’ve paired this with installing some of the most popular food concepts such as Bourke Street Bakery and Shortstop Doughnuts to overall give the users good food and a great space to socialise. The same applies across the globe with precincts such as Canary Wharf in London. This space services around 112,00 people who work in the area and it is not just for the workers anymore. People have noticed this precinct, appreciated the offering and are now visiting it as a ‘food destination’ with friends and family. 

  Shortstop Doughnuts  at Barangaroo - doughnuts that draw crowds and satisfy the workers' 3pm sweet needs  (image via  Broadsheet )

Shortstop Doughnuts at Barangaroo - doughnuts that draw crowds and satisfy the workers' 3pm sweet needs (image via Broadsheet)

As we see at Barangaroo and Canary Wharf, if you have a food precinct with a great al fresco area, licensing for those who want it and the ability to trade well into the evening, you’ve established good grounds for precinct success. This is because it meets the requirements of those who want to share a meal and drink together, in a space that takes them out of their work environment and into a sense of enjoyment and experience. People are no longer using their houses as social spaces as these dwellings have become much smaller and people spend less and less time at home. People are honouring their food and beverage moments as their time to connect with one another and preferably people like to do this in surroundings that promote a happy and enjoyable experience. Outdoor spaces, licensing, evening trade as well as good design and planned ambience all contribute to this. 

  Anason  at Barangaroo buzzing with the evening economy  (image via  Concrete Playground )

Anason at Barangaroo buzzing with the evening economy (image via Concrete Playground)

It’s important to note that whilst technology cannot replicate the hospitality of food and beverage, it is a driving force of it’s success. People are ‘Instagramming’, ‘Tweeting’ and ‘checking in’ at all their favourite places, spreading the message quickly that they enjoyed their experience and gets other people on board with a ‘I must try that’ mentality. Most people are initiating their social experiences via technology now, texting and tagging friends in things to arrange plans. This means that whilst a food precinct might be the social glue, it is being pushed along by technology and it should be set up for this. Noteworthy menu items, market-leading brands and innovative concepts are all things that promote personal sharing of the experience. This creates a social following leading to more people visiting, replicating the experience they saw on their screen and sharing once again. 

So, as we move forward into a time where majority of the connection is happening via phones, internet and Apps across the globe, it is becoming more and more evident that people are using their food and beverage experiences as a time to reconnect on a human level. With less time and space for socialising, food and beverage precincts and developments should consider this and work with the customers by providing a space that they can ‘come home to’.