There’s an interesting trend developing up in Canada that this same group of people may want to play close attention to.Followers of the retail sector know that the food and beverage segment is hot, and also that it shows no signs of slowing down. Savvy landlords, developers and property managers are well out in front of this trend, and the concept of food as anchor or overall drawing card of a center or mall continues to gain traction. According to The Star, there’s an interesting trend developing up in Canada that this same group of people may want to play close attention to.
Food courts are ubiquitous part of the American shopping mall experience, but they’re being treated as more than just an afterthought at these malls in the Greater Toronto Area.
Scarborough Town Centre recently unveiled the first phase of an overall $37 million upgrade to its food and dining options.
“Our business is about keeping our customers happy, and that includes food and beverage and entertainment. I think you’re going to see the percentage of food increase in shopping centres across the board; we’ve already seen that trend start to happen in the U.S,” said General Manager Robert Horst.
The centre has 23 quick-service brands offered on the ground floor, and has its sights set on opening three premium floors on the upper level.
Michael Penalosa, managing principal at Thomas Consultants, says that ten years ago, food courts represented about 5% of the space in a typical enclosed mall in North America. For some mixed-use malls, that number climbs as high as 15 to 20%, and has proven to be an effective means for drawing consumers in.
“This is a double-edged sword. Consumers have a finite amount of disposable income. Do you use it for shopping or dining out?” he explains.
Last year, Sherway Gardens unveiled a very well-received Gourmet Fare food court as part of the mall’s overall $550 million redevelopment. The food court offers up room for 1,000 guests, and has helped to increase the overall food component of the mall by 48%.
“On Saturday afternoons, families would try and find a place to sit and they couldn’t find one. So the kids are hungry – and that’s bad for business because if they’re hungry, they’re irritable, they leave the mall,” said General Manager Andy Traynor.
For developers and owners in the US, it would be wise to make note of these development from north of the border. The often overlooked food court might just be more important than you realize, and a little sprucing up could make a huge difference in customer counts.