Retail design expert reacts to research linking customers’ spend to food courts / by Ben Ramsden

CACI, the UK’s leading data intelligence company that advises a number of the country’s biggest retailers, has revealed new analysis that shows the strong link between retail spend and catering options.

Based on 170,000 exit interviews with shoppers in over 100 retail centres across the UK, CACI’s research shows that consumers who use catering spend approximately 48 per cent more on retail goods than those who don’t.

CACI’s data indicates that the average spend on catering increased by 9 per cent between 2012 and 2013, a trend largely driven by growth in restaurant spend accounting for 55 per cent of catering spend in 2013, as opposed to 49% in 2012.

Stuart Rough, Chairman and retail design expert at global architecture, urbanism and design practice Broadway Malyan, commented: “This research indicates the strategic importance of food courts and outlets in shopping malls, in terms of influencing the amount of time and money that customers spend – and good design is a key driver in the success of catering options.

“In Asia fast food outlets are usually sited in mall basements, typically connected to underground railway stations and car parks, while slow food outlets are located on higher floors. In Europe and Latin America, where centres don’t typically have comparable basement space, food courts and outlets are usually located on the upper floors in the mall – along with leisure and entertainment uses – to help drive shoppers up through a scheme.

“Food courts should be sited where shoppers pass and it will be natural for them to congregate. They should also be located to maximise visibility, given that their success and profits depend in no small part on impulse buying. Sometimes particular types of outlets can also be located to target a specific demographic of shopper – for example quality cafés might be located adjacent to high-fashion retailers.

“With an increased emphasis placed on the food offer, and in response to a more recent shift towards healthier lifestyles and associated demand for quality food, market-type spaces have become popular – and this has seen an urban and outdoor design approach to food courts. In Europe there has been a move towards open air and partially-covered shopping centres and a greater emphasis on quality when it comes to interior design – in turn resulting in more sophisticated food court design – as well as other non-core retail offerings and attractions to draw customers in.

“Today, food court design is about delivering large and highly-comfortable spaces that benefit from maximum daylight penetration, external long-views and outside terraced areas. The objective is to create attractive, eye-catching and central eating spaces that serve as convenient and comfortable gathering points.

“There is also a trend towards designing food courts with a smaller number of overall outlets, but a wider range of food offer and more chains and franchises – reflecting the growing importance of brand recognition in customer buying behaviour and also an increased focus on competition by unit and product mix.

“Food court design is about creating a sense of place and atmosphere, an inspiring environment and deeply satisfying emotional and sensory experience. Designs must cater for a variety of types of food consumption – from stand-up and quick eating through to sit-down fine-dining in adjacent standalone restaurants. Therefore, designs usually feature different types of chairs, sofas and tables to cater for all types of social groups and situations – from large groups down to more intimate and private two-person spaces.

“Lounge-type areas often feature sofas and quality fixtures and fittings, for example lighting and carpet, as well as creature comforts including WIFI and newspapers, with comfort an absolute priority. Designs also usually include vertical landscaping, trees and plants and roof / sky lights to stream natural light.

“Another important feature in contemporary food court design is the inclusion of traditional materials and colours to infuse a local feel and to tell a story about the history of the place – but with the materials used in a contemporary way.”

Stuart has led award-winning retail and workplace projects in China, Southeast Asia and Europe including the Forum Coimbra, Forum Barreiro and Espaço Guimarães retail centres and BASF, Sony and Roche headquarter buildings.

Pictured – The Holea centre, Huelva, southern Spain – recently opened in southern Spain, designed by Broadway Malyan for French multinational retailer Carrefour and featuring over 2,000 sq m of restaurant/leisure space and open air pathways designed to provide a local Mediterranean village feel.

Distinguished by its global reach with 16 studios across world centres, unrivalled diversity with 500+ design experts and distinctive client focus with over 75% income from repeat business, Broadway Malyan creates world-class and fully-integrated cities, places and buildings to unlock lasting value and deliver a ‘return on design’.

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