5 future-proofing strategies for food retailers in malls

  • 5 future-proofing strategies for food retailers in malls image

Whilst the food sector has been hit hard by covid-19, with many restaurant and cafe closures, it’s also seen the expansion of online and take-away services and new initiatives by gourmet operations – proving that survival is all about adapting.

As we move forward, many food operators are incorporating new products and services to promote recovery and future proof their business to ensure ongoing revenue growth. Here are some of the future-proofing strategies that will make the sector more resilient:

Built environments that offer positive human experiences

Neighbourhood centres, retail strips and local community connections go a long way in helping people feel that they belong. Shopping centres have done this successfully for more than 70 years and will only get better at this in the future. With this in mind; investors and developers are continuing to invest heavily in experience-driven projects and destinations with a new ‘build for people’, experience-based approach.

Repurposing spaces to maximise their appeal as dining, drinking and entertainment destinations

The pandemic’s adverse influence on food and hospitality operations has accelerated the creation and uptake of accessible outdoor areas; dining terraces, pocket parks, beer gardens, rooftops, streetscape dining, open markets and squares, open-air student hubs and inside-out stadia.

The externalisation of dining in shopping centres is now a genuine USP that can be marketed as a safer place to eat and socialise. People like to eat, but they like to eat outside even more.

Placing the customer at the centre of the decision-making process

The inclusion of social value in property development is growing, especially in modern shopping malls and mixed-use developments (as well as residential and workplace environments).

A simple place-making strategy applied to food and beverage destinations adds greatly to the beauty and attractiveness of the dining terrace, cafe strip, waterfront development or business park courtyard. And ‘Live, work, play’ developments are rapidly adopting the use of sustainable materials, softer lines, natural resources, open air, green interiors and flexible spaces to increase uptake of the built form.

Connecting the digital + physical worlds in food and hospitality

Regardless of size, food service operations have benefitted greatly from technology and the digitalisation of front-of-house and back-of-house systems (including third-party delivery platforms and massive growth in dark­kitchen production).

Food operators will continue to embrace digital integrations; however, consumers in a post-pandemic world now crave personal service and social interaction, which makes connecting the two more important than ever for food operators.

Technology is important but positive experiences in beautiful cafes, bars, food halls and rooftop bars are crucial in the development of people-places; a genuine and sustainable point of difference.

Developing and retaining competitive resilience

Competition for the food dollar continues to mount, placing pressure on shopping centres and mixed-use developments to establish and promote their food and hospitality as a point of difference. Shopping centres will continue to face greater competition from high street dining and the growth of investment in restaurants, cafes, neighbourhood bars, and coastal and country pubs.

Food deliveries have increased ten­fold during the pandemic, but bricks-and­mortar shopping centres, mixed use developments as well as hospitality gurus and groups will always be go-to destinations to eat, socialise and enjoy human experiences.

From a development perspective, food and hospitality continues to attract investors, keen to find the best locations either as greenfield sites or by repurposing traditional pubs in urban and rural locations.