Creating Food & Beverage Precincts to Anchor Local Communities

In the changing retail landscape Neighbourhood shopping centres are facing competition from online shopping, high street food deliveries like Uber & Deliveroo, high street dining precinct and the inevitable introduction of smart casual/ family restaurants within the building footprint of stand-alone cinemas and other entertainment precincts.

Smart Casual and Family Dining precincts are no longer the BASTAN of the larger malls and retail precincts. The smaller malls are starting to recognise the many benefits of increasing the food GLA and the development of dining precincts. They want to include roof tops and dining lanes.

Barkly Square, Brunswick, Victoria (Credit:  Barkly Square )

Barkly Square, Brunswick, Victoria
(Credit: Barkly Square)

Shopping Centres of varying sizes unable to rely on traditional food court or basic cafes to satisfy their customers, need to have a genuine offer/reason for their customers to visit and dwell longer. Food & beverage is playing a critical factor in the shopping centres appeal. A diversity of food mix, good operators, longer trading hours and evening economy are shaping the future of the shopping centres. This coupled with an entertainment precinct (Cinemas, bowling, digital games, beauty, health & wellbeing) and licensed venues with a safe purpose built environment are key factors which create a successful hospitality or “Food & Beverage” destination.

Evolving neighbourhood shopping centres are social hubs and will aim to create a community environment which will drive everything from personal choices in shopping, healthier eating, on trend foods, entertainment, lifestyle choices and social spaces. This will be a mega trend, adopted by smaller shopping centres to celebrate the communities which they are part of.

Welcome to Bowen Hills in the Brisbane Showgrounds (Credit:  Indulge Magazine )

Welcome to Bowen Hills in the Brisbane Showgrounds
(Credit: Indulge Magazine)

The shopping centre wants to add more food to their tenancy mix but it is not always possible, without introducing the process of master planning. There are critical factors which must be considered to deliver a quality food precinct.

It is essential to remember that today’s discerning customer has endless choices to eat in/ out or have it delivered to their door step. The customers have been exposed to the best in the market and are not afraid to make choices. The customers are willing to own new food trends and try new cuisines. Their exposure to television food shows has further created a niche market for experimental food.

Food is enjoyed with ease and open mindedness. This has led to creating a gourmet culture which is being enjoyed across demographics and age groups. To support this positive food attitude….where going to a restaurant is no longer an event, it is important to bring the new to market concepts and established operators from the CBD and larger malls to the suburbs and to the neighbourhood shopping centres.

The Brickworks, Auckland (Credit:  Buchan Group )

The Brickworks, Auckland
(Credit: Buchan Group)

Neighbourhood shopping centres have a special attraction for the local residents due to the ease of proximity and familiarity. To complement, the continued growth of Airbnb has further assisted in the growth of popularity and use of local shopping centres. The tourists using local Airbnb residence are attracted to use local amenities. The neighbourhood shopping Centre can be developed into the prosperous food & beverage precincts which are equally loved and frequented by the local residents and the tourists.

It is essential that the shopping centres have a definitive Food & Beverage strategy to be able to maximise rents, sales and centre visitation. The fashionable food trends should be a consideration for getting a good mix between the established food choices and the new to market food concepts.

In recent times the neighbourhood/regional/sub-regional shopping centres have been faced with challenges varying from site refurbishment, declining foot fall and competition from larger and newly established/newly refurbished shopping centres. While these challenges form a basis for deeper evaluation of retail services, it is important to note that the mantra for “Neighbourhood” shopping centres lie in creating a connection with the local community and serving their needs thereof. 

Fresh & Local Produce at Ceres Fresh Market in Ponsonby Central, Auckland (Credit:  Localist )

Fresh & Local Produce at Ceres Fresh Market in Ponsonby Central, Auckland
(Credit: Localist)

Tunzafun - Family entertainment in local shopping precincts  (Credit: 2mcreative)

Tunzafun - Family entertainment in local shopping precincts
(Credit: 2mcreative)

The daytime trade is largely focussed on the home makers, mother’s groups and senior citizens looking for easy and relaxed access to local shopping centres for their food & beverage demands. This may be combined with other activities like services, food shopping, socialising or visiting only for entertainment and change of scene.

The opportunity lies with the shopping centre to connect with Food & Beverage specialist consultants to plan and localise their F&B offering to maximise returns. The master planning function has the capability to assess the needs of the shopping centre and provide customer centric solutions in food and beverage space. It is important to consider that the food mix is suitable to the local demographics and acknowledges and embraces the local produce and operators.

Neighbourhood shopping centres can be the disruptors to the evening economy in the local trade area. They can create an environment to grow the evening trade for retailers and increase centre visitation through a well presented Food & Beverage Precinct which is geared up for dinner trade and late night week-end trade. This will set up the stage to provide an opportunity to local residents to enjoy much loved and wanted food & beverage options all 7 days a week at different parts of the day in the close proximity of their homes and local workplaces. Other safety factors to be considered while establishing evening trade will the neighbourhood noise and alcohol controls. This will assist in creating a safe community environment.

Shopping centres will be required to assess and establish their centres needs and gaps with regards to food & beverage. Followed by evaluation of current resources. This is followed up by establishing a customised food & beverage strategy to activate 7 days trading in all day parts. The current and futuristic food trends are the main considerations, hence future proofing the shopping centre.

Though different approaches can be adopted to maximise the MAT, it should be noted that there is no quick fix to achieve this. It is a journey which must be undertaken with professional advice, attention to detail and unfaltering commitment to be the best.

Stay active - 7 days a week in all day parts (Credit:  George and Willy )

Stay active - 7 days a week in all day parts
(Credit: George and Willy)

It will be essential for the smaller shopping centres to consider the ability of their existing food operators to participate in the aspirational F&B strategy. There may be a need to provide creative business models to assist the existing operators or attract new operators. For example, an emerging trend, where the tenants take a one-year lease and pay percentage of takings but have no capital expenditure commitments as all infrastructure costs are paid by the market. The objective should be to have a collection of top quality, expertly curated eateries with the aim to make on trend dining affordable and accessible for all.

Neighbourhood shopping centres can create a Food & Beverage precinct which is design driven. There is no longer a need for gourmet food to be available only in fine dining or have a niche setup. It is fast becoming mainstream. The restaurants are being presented as more casual meeting and eating places, where the music maybe turned up loud or the tables packed but essentially the food is exceptional. The trend is moving towards more relaxed restaurants. But that is not to say customers don’t appreciate quality; instead they expect more. 

The landscape for Neighbourhood Shopping centres will change, they are the ones where the most changes occur. Those to undertake the early steps of change will stand to make the MOST and become solid anchors for the local community.

Cover Image: Barkly Square, Brunswick, Victoria
(Credit: ISPT)