Small, Medium and Large shopping centres and precincts - Each must seize their food and hospitality opportunity and plan for success. No mall, retail centre or mixed-use development, can afford not to offer great food and service. The simplest café or food truck can offer great food, coffee and snacks thereby generating rental income for the landlord and a profit for the operator. It is all about positioning, professionalism, people and profitability regardless of size and location. 

Food and Hospitality whenever possible should be bigger: F&B should average 6-8% of total floorspace in all shopping centres. This commitment to Food and Hospitality is the catalyst for the evolution of these locations into lifestyle centres, a transition that is already well underway in the larger shopping centres and precincts.

Regardless of size, managed centres are all about people. We’re planning food and entertainment for people in what could be, and often has been, impersonal spaces so as to deliver positive experiences whereby people want to dwell longer, spend more and return more often. 

The new Hotys EntX is a prefect example of food & entertainment working together to craft the ultimate customer experience.

In this vein, we are starting to see how these ideas are making their way into the built environment.  The term ‘Collaborative Urbanism’ has come into usage. This is a concept, now being put into practice around the world, involving the community in the design of their urban spaces.  It is the process of allowing, encouraging and seeking out the input of those who will use the space and getting them to make meaningful contributions that shape the final product.  It is this sense of inclusion, and not just a market-driven solution powered by tried-and-tested blueprints, that has created innovative and exciting spaces that attract people to spend time there and to share their experiences. 

Cultural Infrastructure is an off-shoot of this idea. Cultural spaces which the public have adopted as being belonging to them – the Sydney Opera House, the Melbourne Cricket Ground and the Australian War Memorial in Canberra – are more than just buildings. They are part of who we are as a people and affect even those who never or rarely visit.

Shopping centres are microcosms of ourselves – what we buy, what we wear, what we eat.  Malls are public spaces just as much as a park or a library.  Landlords need to evolve their spaces to make sure that they are not just angular lines on a page but are meaningful to the catchment and are places that customers want to ‘own’. A design-driven, people-pleasing environment must be connected to community and fulfil personal need-states of changing lifestyle requirements: These are the fundamentals of the business of food.

The newly developed and inviting Tea Tree Plaza
(Image Credit: SCN)

It takes more than food to attract people, but good food and hospitality can retain them and secure repeat visitation. In order to create such an environment Consulting firm AT Kearney says that, “the [shopping centre] industry needs to think like the customers it serves” and that “the future of retail real estate is as robust as the industry’s imagination and its ability to connect buyers to their individual and collective values and aspirations.”

Little High in central Christchurch and Press Hall in central Wellington represent the growth in new food markets that are offering seamless casual dining experiences that were constructed with people in mind.  Both stand along food markets or in mixed-use complexes such as the new and outstanding Hoyts ENT-X in Christchurch. This brand new, benchmark entertainment development boasts best-in-class cinemas, confectionary and bar-lounge facilities, as well as a range of 20 state-of-the art smart casual dining and bar destinations.

Little High Eatery is popping with creativity & delicious food
(Image Credit:
Little High & Food to Love)

Napoleon observed that an army marches on its stomach. So too it seems, do shopping centres.  The numbers bear this out:  Since 2010, ABS Retail Trade figures show growth in turnover for Apparel retailers has averaged 3.1% per annum.  For F&B retailers, the figure is 5.0%. 

This divergence is due in part to the experience-seeking nature of millennials and new millennials. Successful food establishments provide a unique eating experience and satisfy their craving for a sense of excitement and new-dish-discovery. This leads to the conclusion that today’s requirements for living, shopping and eating have changed. The broad construct of Lifestyle has been integrated into retail and this needs to be reflected in the food, hospitality and entertainment offer.

I think by now we have all moved on from the brick versus clicks dilemma and realised that retail centres are alive and well and have a bright future – provided they can change and evolve with their customers. 

Press Hall in Wellington is busy with people looking for the perfect bite to eat.
(Image Credit: Neat Places)

Cover Image: Hotys EntX - Christchurch