The death of the humble food court?
In today’s world of avocado lattes, has the humble pie and sauce or ham and cheese toastie disappeared for good? Judging by the new emphasis on food retailing within the spate of recent shopping centre developments and refurbishments, it is fair to say ‘fast-casual dining’ is the preferred taste.
Shopping centre owners all over the country are spending up big on keeping their assets one step ahead of the pack. Vicinity’s Chadstone, AMP’s Pacific Fair, QIC’s Robina and most recently Westfield’s Chermside shopping centres are all shining examples of a shift of focus. The rise of the fast-casual dining precinct, with words like ‘artisan’ and ‘bespoke’ splashed around like cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, has seen the food court and its deep-fried offerings disappear from the plan.
Having placed many leasing specialists and asset managers over the years, I have had numerous discussions about the changing face of shopping centres. It has been interesting to consider whether the new approach to shopping centre food is the industry reacting to what the public demands, or instead a proactive leading down a path of higher-priced, value-added food and dining offerings that translate to higher retailer profit margins and hopefully higher rent per square metre for the shopping centre owner.
I believe it is a combination of both.
The expectations of the customer have definitely shifted – we all want fresh, healthy options or hatted chef inspired creations. However, the expectations and requirements of the asset and fund manager have certainly changed as well. The arrival of major international fashion retailers (think Zara, H&M, Uniqlo etc) has changed the shopping centre landscape, as the smaller independent fashion retailers have been forced out. The internationals take up a lot of space and bring shoppers to the centre, but generally pay
less rent per square metre than the smaller retailers. As a result, the shopping centre owners need to squeeze more rent out of another area – namely food.
Whether you are selling burgers or cars, the economics are similar. Selling one Ferrari may be more profitable than selling 10 Holdens. Likewise, Betty’s Burgers at Robina may sell fewer units than McDonald’s but, as part of Robina’s self-proclaimed ‘new food playground’ The Kitchens, it is attracting customers from far and wide.
The end result is that we are satisfying our desire for quality food choices and the shopping centre owners have found a way to keep adding to the value of their assets and differentiate themselves from the competition.
Something to ponder over with your cold-pressed coffee, smashed avo and aged prosciutto sourdough pizza…
Steve Hammond is director – development and property at Kingfisher Recruitment, Brisbane.
This article also appears in the August/September issue of Facility Management magazine.
Image: Anawat Sudchanham © 123RF.com