Food Focus

Food & Hospitality in Shopping Centres must collectively recalibrate

In his regular column for Shopping Centre News, Francis Loughran of Future Food discusses some of the current challenges facing our industry and how food operators should use this next-normal as an opportunity to reinvent their business focus in order to maximise sales and to thrive post-COVID-19.

Success in the business of food dictates that we reconsider and reconstruct our approach to sales maximisation within Shopping Centres and CBD locations. A positive combination of culinary creative and strategic business acumen is essential to maximise sales and profits in this (almost) post-corona era.

The Challenges
Across our suburbs we can already see the visual scars of the pandemic. Many cafés, food shops and restaurants are deserted. These former thriving social spaces are now empty shells waiting to be leased, possibly to small gyms, nail bars, massage or stretch studios. Landlords, their food partners and retailers must not let this happen within our malls. We need to ensure that food operators can enjoy the heights of pre-COVID-19 sales by reinventing their business to thrive and survive. Adding a hand-sanitizer to the counter or entrance will never be enough to drive sales and to make customers feel totally safe in the new-normal of dining-out.

State regulations continue to dictate social distancing in food premises. The limited seating restricts sales opportunities for the operator, not only by limiting the volume of patrons, but also by limiting the time that food operators can ‘let’ a table to a single booking. With little chance of add-on sales, or experience-factor sales, the outcomes become more and more transactional and limit the revenue potential.

Investment in resilient strategies
Our insight into food and its unique operational perspective has led to new and exciting food opportunities, not only for our many food business clients, but how they view, connect and interact with their customers and suppliers.

Many food and beverage operators, as a result of the pandemic, have developed a sophisticated understanding of cuisine and service gaps, intuitively meeting demand opportunities and creating innovation partnerships. For example, creating more economical delivery solutions or developing their own delivery platforms, ultimately driving sales and profit from a range of revenue streams.  It is all about sales. Sales equals success and sales equals survival.

In this changing landscape we must consider three stakeholder perspectives in every strategic decision we make:

  1. The landlord perspective – How can we maximise our business return both now and in the long term? How do we optimise our centres as a community destination, a safe space and a welcoming place?
  2. The operator perspective – What steps can they take to maximise their sales opportunities for the mutual benefit of retailer and landlord? How can we assist local and national operators to make educated choices with the benefit of our holistic industry perspective?
  3. The customer perspective – Every customer that walks in through our front door must feel valued, safe, and welcome. We must win their business only after winning their appreciation and their trust.

Financial sustainability is the key factor in all of these perspectives and in order to achieve this we need to consider our centre environment and the message it visually communicates to our customers – consumer confidence is the key to recovery both at the micro and the macro level.

We must now invest in resilient strategies that restore our business assets, secure our customers trust, ensure safety in our communities and communicate this through positive messaging. Our Centres must be engaging, and experience focussed, even with reduced customer volumes, our customers still want to be excited and entertained. We must invest in customer acquisition and ensure that we secure market share as the world slowly finds its feet in the next normal.

About the author

Francis Loughran

Francis Loughran, specialising in Retail Food and Food Service Management, is the founding Director of Future Food and has been involved in the food service industry for 35 years. Francis has built a wealth of knowledge and experience in concept development, food service strategic planning, design, retailing and food service management.

His work has taken him around the world and includes a diverse list of projects, involved in the planning and development of waterfront developments, restaurants, cafes, food courts and fresh food markets along with food service solutions for restaurant precincts, stadia, airports, mixed-use developments, leisure and entertainment precincts and corporate office towers.

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