Food and beverages in shopping centers

Food and beverage options are playing an increasingly significant role in shopping centers. Turnover from F&B retailers in ECE centers increased by 54 percent between 2010 and 2015 alone. There are many reasons for this: Society is attaching ever greater significance to food and drink, and shopping centers are not excluded from this trend. Visitors to centers are placing ever greater emphasis on a high-quality stay, a pleasant atmosphere and a shopping experience that leaves no base uncovered. This also includes an insistence on contemporary and diverse dining options.

These are also an effective way for shopping centers to stand out from the competition: Dining is thus becoming a distinguishing feature, especially in relation to online retail. This is because shopping is increasingly becoming a total experience – people want to feel good, to be able to hang out and chill over a piece of cake or a snack, or to meet up for a coffee with friends. Thus it is that dining options are underscoring the character of shopping centers as market places and contributing to a movement away from a “place to shop” toward a “place to be”.

40% choose their center based on the food and beverage options

The figures speak for themselves: Dining in shopping centers is booming - and is both wanted and accepted by customers. Extensive surveys and analyses carried out by ECE have shown that some 60 percent of visitors make use of the range of dining options on offer nearly every time they go to centers - and over 80 percent make use of them at least occasionally. About 40 per cent even go so far as to choose their center based on the food and beverage options available to them.

This is why ECE has in recent years significantly expanded the dining options in its centers and installed new food courts and restaurant areas in many of them, such as Phoenix-Center Hamburg and City-Point Kassel. In the planning of new centers or the numerous modernizations of existing ones, the expansion and upgrading of the food courts often plays a key role, for instance at Milaneo in Stuttgart, Aquis Plaza in Aachen or  Skyline Plaza in Frankfurt am Main. This has resulted in a significant increase in the proportion of rental space taken up by F&B outlets: In the most recently opened centers it has amounted to around 10 percent, whereas the ECE average is about 6 percent.

Food courts are popular, fine dining is trendy

The classic food court is and will remain a well-known and popular way of offering food and beverages in centers – with small food and beverage outlets that tend to offer simple, fast and inexpensive food and share a common seating area. Here, visitors appreciate variety and a wide range (according to the ECE survey: 82 percent of all visitors), good quality (77 percent), moderate prices (70 percent) and the opportunity for everyone to choose their favorite dish but still to be able to sit at the same table as family members, friends or colleagues.
And yet, the variety on offer and the dining concepts in centers are constantly evolving and becoming ever more significant: People are now looking for a choice that extends beyond the classic food court repertoire of pizza, fries and Oriental food. Concepts for casual or fine dining are in demand, including table service, an upscale or especially trendy ambience and more elaborate dishes. Also often being catered for are other trends, such as handmade, vegetarian or vegan food.

Thematic design concepts

At the same time, people have ever higher expectations of the atmosphere - and of the visual and architectural context being created for the dining options by the outlets themselves and by ECE. Modern design, pleasant lighting concepts, comfortable seating, and high-quality materials all have their part to play in ensuring that the atmosphere is harmonious and enhancing the quality of the stay in the center. Food courts are often realized in line with specific thematic concepts in order to emphasize the character of the experience and the feel-good atmosphere. Wherever it is possible, open-air dining is also steadily gaining in importance: With roof terraces, outdoor seating and providers that offer food and beverages until late in the evening, centers are opening up to the outside world and pushing back the boundaries of classic opening hours.

A particularly spectacular example of a new, high-quality and varied array of dining options with a special atmosphere and a great range of modern culinary concepts is planned for the MyZeil in Frankfurt am Main: There, ECE is realizing a food court area with an enhanced range of sensory experiences that combines various elements and a wide selection of the latest culinary trends and restaurant offers - with unique architecture, a laid-back design, a contemporary urban atmosphere, and outdoor terraces that offer spectacular views of the Frankfurt skyline. Spread over seven areas, the “Foodtopia” will boast a very wide range: a mix of trendy international formats and regional providers, ranging from coffee bars and smart lunch concepts through to exclusive restaurants and cool bars - and that from early morning till late in the evening.

“FoodSky” in Europa Passage Hamburg

Here’s another current example: The Europa Passage in the heart of downtown Hamburg, which was modernized to the tune of some € 14 million a good ten years after its opening. The heart of this transformation is the new “FoodSky”: On the upper level of the center, a new food court has been created with 15 providers of dining options and a shared seating area with almost 400 seats, alongside five other restaurants. The share of dining outlets in the Europa Passage is now around 20 percent. The options on offer ranges from a little snack bar to the Michelin-starred restaurant, the “Se7en Oceans”.

But it’s also important to remember that dining is not a universal tool. A classic food court or a higher-quality concept will not be suitable for every location. The dining options on offer must reflect site, target group and positioning. It’s easier to implement more exclusive offers or new trends in an urban center in the heart of a metropolis than it is in a little center in an outlying district that mainly caters for families and is the local shopping destination for residents.

Crucial here is the right mix of retailers, which must be well-thought-out and a perfect fit. Added to this are considerations of which concept should be located at which point in the center, how walkways should be used or influenced, points of attraction or chill zones created, or how the best possible use can be made of the technical facilities. ECE has decades of experience when it comes to locating the right concept in the right place. Then, as far as the range of dining options goes, the sky is pretty much the limit: Even today in the ECE centers you get everything from ice-cream parlors and donut shops through to in-house breweries and a Michelin-starred restaurant – and that range will only increase and become more diverse in future.

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