Marcus Wild is CEO of SES Spar European Shopping Centers & ICSC Member of the Board of Trustees. Image: Daniel Hager
Opinion

The New Generation of Shopping Centers Makes Room for Hospitality

In recent years, a new generation of shopping centers has developed with a particular focus on consumers’ culinary needs.

BY MARCUS WILD

They open themselves to urban life in the city and create more space for hospitality. On average, 15% of the area of a shopping center is already devoted to restaurants, cafes, bars, and food corners. This is about a third more than a few years ago. And that’s not all: Shopping districts of this new generation are planned to ensure that the culinary offer is highlighted even more optimally. The reality shows that the enthusiasm for a pub or cafe and its individual charm increasingly influences customers’ choice of venue and makes people visit shopping centers they otherwise would not have were it just about shopping.

Shopping districts open up to urban life in cities

With a rising focus on key city-center locations, shopping districts are opening themselves up and making gastronomy accessible from the outside. Attractive terraces and balconies therefore increasingly invite visitors to linger in shopping centers, too. They are also more often open beyond the opening hours for retail stores.

What makes good gastronomy

The gastronomic offer, in particular, should reflect each shopping center’s character and make it unmistakable. Good gastronomy is increasingly regional and individual. On the one hand, this requires innovation, ideas, and courageous local operators, but also the experience and fine instincts of center developers and managers who are able to adapt creative ideas about customers’ needs to the reality in shopping centers.

It’s important not to underestimate the fact that building requirements for catering businesses are more complex and require greater investment than that for regular stores. This means a higher risk for tenants. Young entrepreneurs, in particular, benefit from having an experienced, strong, and trusted partners at their sides. Center developers’ support thus ranges from transferring know-how from successful catering businesses in other centers, to coaching days, to frequency-increasing measures and financial assistance.

Planning and good infrastructure for restaurants in shopping centers are only one side of the coin, however. The gastronomy offer also has to be right. As with everything, branding, individuality, and a unique gastronomy mix are very important. Distinctiveness and originality are the order of the day, whether it’s a chill specialty beer bar, a charming gastro-pub, or freshly prepared “slow food” at an Italian restaurant that serves up Italian dolce vita along with its culinary delights.

Changing consumer behavior, the length of stay, and increased use of gastronomic offerings in shopping centers have not only increased the average amount of time spent in centers and sales, but have also sent the rent for gastronomy spaces upward.

The trends of the future

The gastronomy trends of the future chime very well with the possibilities provided by shopping centers. Firstly, there is the flexibility for customers who no longer eat by the clock, instead preferring to eat when they want. Brunch served any time is experiencing a golden age. Even snacking is becoming more socially acceptable. Secondly, there is the desire for quality and transparency. Freshness has become the most important criterion. This is a quality that is very carefully maintained in the new generation of shopping centers.

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