Unless you are a professional in this field, it is unlikely that you have ever given thought on what brings you to choose a certain food court. The first answer that crosses your mind, and it’s not a silly answer, is – “Because it is located in the mall I’m at” or “It’s in the shopping center I like”.
Until not long ago mall developers did not take all the factors other than the one stated above into consideration when planning a food court. In recent years, many mall’s financial returns have been moving from a ratio of 80% coming from retail shopping- against 20% from hospitality- to a 50 by 50% and in some cases hospitality (including entertainment) answers for as much as 80% of the foot traffic and proportional returns.
Currently mall developers and managers pay much more attention to their food outlet areas, contracting experienced professionals to work with them on better developing this market niche.
Location of the mall, parking, safety and range of options are obvious reasons of consumer’s attraction but on top of that, what also comes is our intrinsic instinct of being perceived as part of a determined group sharing its values and tastes. The social attachment of a determined image we make of ourselves and how we promote it is understood and widely accepted to be a definitive factor on your choice of a place to hang out, whether with your friends, sharing an ice-cream with your kids, or just to be seen with other members of your wider tribe.
The concept is easy to be understood and acknowledged as on mundane acts of our day by day lives we state this inclination. We love making statements on our t – shirts, wearing branded sneakers and purchasing the right smart phone. On a more spatial and wider sense, involving more capital expenditure, another good example is the trend of Design Hotels which started some ten years ago and its far from fading away. To see and be seen on a special place is what maters. With this in mind, when we start on a project for a successful food court, the golden rule of our design is to create a “The Place to Be”.
As we evolve and constantly change our habits and tastes, food courts are expected to do the same, otherwise they would run out of their targeted public taste, date to early and in doing so, compromise the performance of the rest of the mall. Flexibility supported by sensible technical solutions to minimize updates and modification costs is the second rule. If the Wow Factor is not backed by a well thought drainage and air extraction projects for example, it won’t work as expected.
Finally, leaving to another time, other important factors such as a good mix of Cafés and Restaurants. Another “must have” for a food court is: comfort. A good food court must be attractive to all tastes and able to cope with different groups of people. Certain styles of food attract a specific group of consumers and buffer zones are sometimes necessary. If you stop to think for a second you will certainly agree; noisy places are uninviting and enervating, endless cleaning operations done in the centre of the court, uneven tables, uniform furniture, just to name a few. These are the worst enemies of the food court.
Contract the services of architects with sound experience on the design of fast food outlets, franchises, restaurants and food courts is essential for malls, restaurant owners and Franchisors to minimize risks and maximize their profits. Next time you think about upgrading your existing business or starting on a new project, don’t rush, have a good look around and exchange ideas with who really understand the requirements and nuances of the hospitality business.