Operators of fledgling restaurants, cafés and quick service restaurants are increasingly viewing shopping malls as must-have locations to showcase their brand.
That is one of the findings to emerge from food service consultancy Horizons' latest Ones to Watch survey. Lesser-known restaurant brands are regularly appearing in shopping malls alongside more established names such as Wagamama, Café Rouge and Nando's, as operators are attracted by the high volume of customers in malls, seven-day week opening, long opening hours and the captive market.
Horizons noted that London's new Westfield Stratford City mall (pictured), the UK's 3rd largest mall, features at least 15 emerging brands including: Balans, Bumpkin, Cabana, Caribbean Scene, Comptoir Libanais and frozen yogurt outlet Pinkberry.
"There is a lot of competition among food outlets in malls, but securing sites within them is becoming vital for many quick service operators. The fact Westfield has long opening hours, over 300 retail outlets as well as on-site entertainment in the form of a bowling alley, casino and 14-screen cinema ensures a high footfall of hungry consumers, especially families and teenagers. Westfield has over 70 food service outlets in seven designated areas and food is a vital part of the consumer offer," commented Horizons' director of services Paul Backman.
"Malls are becoming a microcosm of the high street, with all the big names represented as well as smaller, emerging chains. They are also unforgiving - if a unit doesn't work within a mall, then it is unlikely to work on the high street, so operators find out quickly whether their concept has staying power. Knowing the demographics of each shopping centre enables mall operators, and outlet owners, to take a far more sophisticated approach in targeting their audience with the right offer," he added.
The Ones to Watch survey, which looks at brands with between five and 25 outlets which have experienced growth of at least 20% over the previous three years combined, found burger brand Byron to be the fastest growing concept of the last six months.
Byron has expanded by 217% between 2009 and 2012, going from just six outlets in 2009 to 19 in 2012. Wildwood, Ed's Easy Diner and Busaba Eathai are also showing significant outlet growth.
Key trends in the eating out market, identified by Horizons, include:
• the emergence of street food concepts such as Wahaca and Luardos (Mexican), Mooli's (Indian), NOW (Chinese), and Street Kitchen and Yalla Yalla (Lebanese);
• the growth of all-you-can-eat Brazilian churrascaria (rotisserie) with brands such as Bem Brasil, Cabana, and Cabana Rodizio Preto;
• tea bars, demonstrated by concepts such as Boutea, Leaf tea, Teacup, Tea Monkey and Teapod;
• British-themed restaurants such as Bumpkin, Canteen and Union Jacks.
For a full feature on the growing importance of shopping malls to the restaurant sector, watch out for the 16 March issue of Caterer and Hotelkeeper.
By Neil Gerrard
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