The Night Time Economy

Maximising business opportunities by strategically elevating retail food and dining by applying hospitality principles 

Strategic food and dining master planning is a central component of a city’s or shopping centre’s night time economy (NTE). With successful application and maintenance of a master plan, there is major potential for the trading day to be extended for many food and beverage operators thereby maximising sales and subsequent rental optimisation. So, what are the key elements of F&B master planning that are required to produce the world’s best practice when it comes to developing experience and retail food as a key player in the night time trade? 

Whilst NTE in Australia is still in it’s growth stage, Future Food’s international projects have shown us how night time trading works in cities across the globe allowing us to define the core factors that remain consistent to the success of the NTE regardless of diversity in culture and climate. These core factors are: 

  1. Hospitality 
  2. Security and Safety 
  3. Diversity in Menus 
  4. Entertainment 
  5. Experience


Hospitality is the ability to make people feel good, to be happy and to enjoy the space they are sharing with family, friends or colleagues. This basic premise needs to be supported by quality food and entertainment and additional recreational activities such as leisure shopping, activities, water features, valet parking, free entertainment, family friendly, vistas and views. 

Security and Safety

NTE does raise a number of questions in regards to safety and security. Whilst NTE does not differ drastically from day time trading, a greater emphasis does need to be placed on key motivational factors including personal safety, taxi transport, car parking, security guards, CCTV, people presence and the general environment. 

Diversity in Menus

People have an expectation when it comes to night time hospitality products. They want menu diversity that comes with high service standards, a dining ‘experience’, varying pricing and multiple options of cuisines. The questions of who are our customers and what do they want? must be asked to establish the main user groups and their need-states when it comes to food and drink options. From this, offerings can be diversified and differentiated to meet everyone’s expectations. 


When it comes to building customer visitation time, precincts are now turning to entertainment elements from street shows to live performances and al fresco dining to pop-up retail shops. The anchor of the NTE activation is food and beverage however, the entertainment that comes with it provides further energy and lifts the overall experience of the precinct. 


The experience of NTE includes aspects such as what retail offerings are available to the customers of the precinct? Do the F&B outlets offer al fresco dining? Is there a vibrance and energy being dedicated to the space? and has everything been well executed in terms of planning and design? When these aspects are met, social congregation and interaction is established as customers want to be in the space and enjoy spending time there. From Xintiandi in Shanghai which sits alongside well-established retail centres to St Christopher’s Place in London which has been coined a ‘destination within a destination’ - these precincts have achieved year long patronage from locals and tourists alike thanks to the elevated experience the clientele continue to enjoy. 

By including these five factors into the development of a night time trading precinct, an environment can be created that customers want to be within and return to time and time again. This essentially optimises sales opportunities and creates a successful precinct from both a financial perspective as well as an experience perspective. 

Part 2 of this series will look into how Councils are working on improving or creating opportunities for more night time trading, particularly in Australia.