The study has shown that 40% of visitors base their choice of shopping center primarily on the available dining options – and not on the variety of other stores. 60 % of those surveyed eat at the center nearly every time they visit.
In the current study, the perception of customers and food retailers was analyzed with regard to food and beverages in general and food courts in particular. A total of 2,500 visitors and tenants at the ECE centers participated in the survey; in addition, TNS Infratest has completed a representative survey for Germany among shopping center customers on behalf of ECE.
“We already knew that dining is a huge trend. But the fact that dining options are the most important factor in deciding which center to visit for so many people did surprise us. Restaurants help change a shopping center from a place to shop to a new place to be and turn it into a place where you go to spend your free time,” says Joanna Fisher, Managing Director Center Management at ECE. Restaurants are increasingly becoming an essential feature that distinguishes shopping centers from shopping online.
The survey also asked about customers’ most popular options. Coffee specialties take 1st place at 44 % of all mentions, followed by Asian food (37 %), fast food (35 %), sandwiches (27 %), and Italian food (26 %).
The number of restaurant guests doubled at ECE’s shopping centers between 2004 and 2014. At the same time, the percentage of restaurant space has increased significantly – from the usual 5 % to up to 10-12 % in centers that opened recently. Since 2010, the total space occupied by restaurants in German ECE centers has grown by 38 %. The percentage of space dedicated to dining will continue to increase, and in older centers especially, space will be rededicated to food outlets. Currently, there are already 1,500 food retailers at ECE’s centers that occupy spaces from 10 to more than 1,000 Sq. m (average: 122 Sq. m).
Most of the food retailers at ECE’s centers are satisfied with their situation. 80 % would recommend the center to others. They especially like the consistently large number of visitors, technical equipment, and the synergy effects among tenants. Independence from weather conditions and the large variety of choices found positive mention.
The most important reasons for using food courts during mall visits are not a surprise: 55 % choose food courts because eating there is fast and convenient. Customers appreciate the opportunity to order different dishes and still get to eat together in the same place – 82% like the great selection. Notably, a special architecture is important to 63% of visitors.
The most frequent customer requests were for Wifi and cell phone charging stations as well as services for families and children (microwaves for baby food, high chairs, play areas).