Over recent years we have observed a real evolution in the shopping center sector. This occurred following changes in the lifestyle of city dwellers and the intensive development of new technologies.
Shopping centers are starting to resemble little communities within a city, becoming the center of peoples’ social life. Typical activities include work, entertainment, gastronomy, sports, hotels and health facilities, all intertwined with the shopping and retail experience. It’s no wonder the architecture of shopping centers needs a well-thought-out plan, offering customers high-quality, common spaces that support activities such as recreation and relaxation.
JLL predicts that by 2025, as much as 20% of the GLA of a shopping center will consist of restaurants and cafes. Shopping centers across Europe have been putting more and more emphasis on the development of food courts, as well as the F&B offering itself. Ten years ago, the amount of space typically dedicated to food within existing properties was 5%, this has grown to 10-15% now in some European markets.
An important factor in the design of a shopping mall is the organic integration into neighbourhoods. A high percentage of centers now include a strong retail choice, truly diverse leisure offerings, recreational areas for children and a real mix of F&B tenants. Where possible, many centres are connected to railway and bus stations, and if not, some are offering shuttle bus services to the nearest public transport destination. Whilst it is important to develop the tenant mix, and becoming particularly more crucial, the F&B mix, the accessibility of a scheme needs to be considered and developed alongside this. When a mall is easily accessible by the urban landscape, the functionality and use of the commercial facilities increases. For this reason, having a diverse tenant mix, which is considered and aimed towards the local demographic, is crucial in order to capitalise on the footfall that can easily access the scheme, give them a reason to visit, drive repeat visits and increase dwell time.
There are many indications suggesting that in the near future, F&B centers may become the “third place” to spend time, right after home and the office. Following the trends related directly to lifestyle, it has become obvious that food courts affect the brand image of the entire shopping mall. Well-designed, attractive catering zones become a magnet in attracting customers. For this reason, many shopping malls decide on the bold rearrangements of their facilities, focusing primarily on increasing the attractiveness of leisure zones with a diverse mix of F&B.
Food court zones are becoming more and more interesting, shifting away from the traditional layout of the lounge area surrounded by food stalls. Space is created with a diverse structure of seats and divides, where we can eat quickly, meet with friends or have an informal business meeting. More and more space is also dedicated to separate gastronomical restaurant concepts. F&B areas in shopping centers are often enriched with art installations in order to become event spaces with demonstration kitchens and live music.
With consumers increasingly looking for more than just a shopping experience, shopping centers are focussing on delivering a strong, diversified F&B offering and thus, responding to the different culinary tastes of customers. At the same time, they try to make the offering unique and complementary, whilst also matching to the local market and the expectations it has towards the destination.