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Is the food court, as we know it, dead?

Westfield Garden City

It’s been said before, often, the food court is dead! The traditional food court setting is giving way, it seems, to other forms of food and beverage retailing. And the change isn’t subtle either; it’s somewhat dramatic!

The days of the 500-seat ‘beer hall barn’ appear to be over. People are becoming far savvier, and want a more authentic dining experience. It’s now been split apart into ‘street food’ and casual fine dining precincts. The dining offer was started with Westfield in Sydney on Level 5, where big-name chefs had outlets that catered for the business crowd. They also (as at Westfield Bondi Junction) broke down the ‘beer hall’ seating into more intimate pockets, set at different heights and comprised of different furniture for various zones. Then, in their refurbishment of Carindale in Brisbane, Westfield created street- or laneway-style food outlets where seating was corralled in front of each tenancy, with its own style matching the tenancy. This created a feeling of a street, even though it was inside the shopping centre.

In London, there’s currently  a huge following of the  street-food concept. Now in its third year, Street Feast London is turning old car parks and warehouses into thriving street-food hubs. Street Feast is in three locations, namely Model Market in Lewisham, Hawker House in Haggerston and Fairground, based in a rundown building in Kingsland Road. They’re also now in Shoreditch and Dalston.

The Fairground diner reflects London’s growing desire for nights out that offer laidback and diverse food, and it’s presented along with music, dancing and cultural shenanigans, spread over three floors. The first floor holds the main bar as well as music, with DJs on Saturdays and live music on Sundays. The second floor plays host to the Grandad Lounge which hosts workshops, interviews, and talks on popular culture and social media. The third floor is where the edible part  of the operation resides, with pop-up restaurants offering Asian, Indian and other delights.

Hawker House is also an indoor food market, open every Friday and Saturday night. This, too, is spread over three levels offering craft beer, hot cocktails and DJs. The three floors of pop-up food options include a wine and cocktail bar on the top floor, offering 36 varieties of whisky.

Model Market in Lewisham is an indoor/outdoor street-food night market in its second year of operation, with over eight outlets from steakhouse to Thai and five bars, including record-shop-slash-wine-bar ‘Winyl’. Celebrity chef, Anthony Bourdain, is launching a Singaporean-style hawker food market in New York later this year. Versions of this street food concept have sprung up in Garden City, Mount Gravatt in Brisbane. Developed by David Wu, of Golden Vision Retail, it has 15 different Asian offerings, including a beer garden, and current plans look to increasing the number  of outlets to 25.

The District, in the Sydney suburb of Chatswood, is also set up as an Asian laneway, with tenancies as stage sets of individual buildings, with their own roofs and pockets of seating adjacent or in front, lining each street.

It’s been built on a tight street grid, allowing you to cruise around checking out the menus and food before deciding where to finally sit and eat.

We currently have on the ‘drawing board’ at Hames Sharley, a restaurant precinct with pavilions set on a series of water pools, with link bridges to a covered timber slatted walkway, with moving water and tropical planting for a project in Darwin and an eat street food offer for a project in Sydney, as further reinforcement of the direction food is going.

Also at Mount Gravatt, there’s a new outdoor casual dining precinct set in raised pools, timber decks and landscaping, creating a resort-style feel including Adirondack chairs, all reflecting a casual lifestyle.

At Westfield Miranda, following the recent redevelopment, a new outdoor rooftop dining terrace on Level 4 has opened with Bavarian Bier Café, Noodle Hut, Brazilian BBQ, Churros Chocolateria and Chong’s Thai restaurant. The terrace offers amazing views north to the city and Botany Bay beyond, with a setting  of timber and tropical planting. Down  on Level 2 is another open-air dining precinct with Italian Kitchen, Kazbah Arabian, Mejico Mexican, and Luxe, an award-winning restaurant from Singapore. Nothing mundane here – certainly not the ambience created around these placemakers.

As you can see, food is creating  a revolution, both in offer and setting,  with clear points of differentiation. SCN


About the author

Tony Quinn

Tony Quinn is a Principal Architect at Hames Sharley, a national multi-award winning design practice specialising in architecture, interior design, urban design and planning. Tony has over 25 years’ experience within the retail and mixed use sectors, extending across master planning and design. Prior to joining Hames Sharley, Tony has directed award winning projects such as the Orion Springfield Queensland (mixed use) and Sovereign Hills Town Centre (mixed use). Tony also worked on projects such as No. 1 Martin Place (Sydney GPO), Grace Bros Broadway and Sydney Central Plaza redevelopments.

Tony is a member of the Australian Institute of Architects, Large Practice Committee (AIA) and International Council of Shopping Centres and is an active member of the Property Industry Foundation, as a former board member and chair of the Regatta committee.

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