The importance of food and beverage to retail

  • Opinion
  • September 30, 2016
  • Aubrey Cheng
The importance of food and beverage to retail

A wider food and beverage offer can be defined as a combination of the following; the traditional foodcourt, and the traditional grab and go food and coffee offer spread throughout a centre, plus; a dining or restaurant precinct that is open both day and night with external alfresco style seating and an outdoor public area, a higher end cafe court with an aspirational design aesthetic, and a street food or food truck environment with a focus on authentic independent operators, that is reflective of ethnically defined cuisine that you'd experience while travelling.

This wider food and beverage offer creates a deeper amenity level to complement traditional shopping patterns, and, in particular, extends the dwell time in a centre. However, crucially in today’s modern society, food and beverage creates its own unique visit, with traditional shopping leveraged on top.  It develops the night economy and promotes greater frequency of visit throughout the week and into the weekend. Food and beverage also complements functions or events that the centre may be delivering, or are happening in the local community, such as sporting games, for example.

Modern society and consumer tastes have changed and we’re seeing New Zealanders regularly eating out, during the week, day and night, casually or informally, making it no longer occasion and/or weekend driven, aligning with traditional Asian and European values.  This is partially due to food being on trend in the widest possible sense, with food imagery shared on social media outlets like Instagram and Facebook, and the focus on food on TV, with programs such as My Kitchen Rules and Masterchef. Food is seen as an integral part of social interaction for business, family, and friends. We’re now seeing the cafe become the new meeting room, and the restaurant is the new formal lounge.

Consumers want relevant food that they can identify with, as demand and trends have originated from us being globally connected and well-travelled, and demanding what we had over there, over here. However, the experience is more than the food itself. Modern New Zealanders want theatre, atmosphere, and informal casualness that breeds regularity and speed of delivery all at a reasonable price value, compared to traditional fine dining, which is declining.

Drink driving laws have also driven changes in society, making it easier to consume closer to home, and have highlighted a wider societal focus on health, wellbeing, food provenance and sustainability, and a more diverse cultural makeup, which values eating out with less emphasis on alcohol consumption.

In November 2015, Kiwi Property launched ‘The Brickworks’ at Auckland’s oldest shopping centre, LynnMall.  We identified the changing demographics of the catchment; young families, DINKS, first home buyers and new ethnic groups - all of whom demand a wider food and beverage offer due to culture and consumer taste. We recognised that our  customers were leaving the local area to access this offer, providing a clear opportunity for us to develop ‘The Brickworks’; a key growth component to broaden the centre's customer experience.

‘The Brickworks’ was designed to reflect the site’s history, providing a high quality character-based environment that marries fantastic outdoor external areas with family-friendly engagement areas. We specifically intended to have experienced independent operators whom are recognised specialists in a specific cuisine type, creating a diverse, multicultural dining experience for our customers.

This column was originally published in NZ Retail edition 745

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