With its high-street feel, eye-catching design and wide variety of tenants, the £350m Trinity Leeds development has already been hailed as the next generation of shopping centre. It is the only major retail scheme to launch in the UK this year. Of its 120 retail outlets, 46 tenants are new to Leeds, but it's certainly not just the shopping aspect of the centre that is breaking new ground.
While you will find the usual suspects when it comes to shopping centre dining - Nando's, Café Rouge, YO! Sushi and the rest - at Trinity Leeds, they will be operating alongside the likes of D&D London, which has ventured out of the capital to open two rooftop eateries, and cocktail bar the Alchemist, which is trying out its successful Manchester formula at the new development.
"We like Leeds as a city and could see the great potential in the scheme and what it offered to the area," says Tim Bacon, chief executive of Living Ventures, the operator of the Alchemist at Trinity Leeds and 32 other restaurants, bars and pubs. "The idea of seeing if a cocktail bar would work in a shopping centre also had its attraction."
Trinity Leeds also houses branches of Cielo Blanco, Wagamama and Carluccio's, among others. "We were always excited to be a part of the Trinity Leeds development," says Paschalis Loucaides, head of marketing at Carluccio's. "It offers us a prime location in the heart of the city with a variety of shops and a cinema within walking distance."
Des Gunewardena, chairman and chief executive of D&D London, said: "I've always liked Leeds; it's a cool, fashionable city where people like going out. It has a strong financial services sector and it's a big university city.
I have been saying to property agents for a number of years that we would open in Leeds, but that it would need to be an amazing site. That's what we've got for Crafthouse and Angelica - a lovely building adjacent to the hugely successful shopping centre, with fabulous views from our terraces."
Gunewardena was also impressed with Land Securities' boldness in making such a big investment in the centre of Leeds and by its vision for the development. "We were convinced that Trinity would be successful and we wanted to be part of that," he says.
Juliette Joffe, co-founder of Giraffe, which also has a fresh new outlet in Trinity Leeds, agrees. "I believe Trinity will pull the whole town centre of Leeds together," she says.
Key to this has been Trinity Leeds' unique food court offer - the casual but top-quality street food concept Trinity Kitchen, which opened last month. It increases the presence of food and beverage at Trinity Leeds by 50% and aims to set a new benchmark for shopping centre dining. Here you will find seven carefully selected global brands, including Notes Cafe, Pho Cafe, PizzaLuxe and Tortilla, each in a 'pod'-style setting, allowing each operator to bring their brand's individual character to life.
Brandon Stephens, founder of Tortilla, says the brand has seen huge footfall throughout Leeds in general. "Everyone is trading over forecast. What was concerning at the time was whether they were going to be able to fill seven stores doing 300-400 meals a day - an extra 2,500-3,000 meals extra required just from [Trinity Kitchen]," he says. "But the marketing that they did to drive awareness was so superb that they flooded the place with people. And so we did in our first four days what we expected to do at maturity in a year's time."
There is also a street food market, which hosts five pop-up food traders each month. It is curated by renowned UK food journalist and broadcaster Richard Johnson, the brains behind the emerging British street food movement and the British Street Food Awards.
"Consumers are desperate for something different," says Paul Smith, development marketing manager at Land Securities. "The way people eat, drink and spend their social time is continuing to change. Trinity Kitchen attempts to forecast this and provides an ever-evolving space that can adapt to consumer demand and emerging trends."
So how did the team at Land Securities choose the right operators to make the concept work? "They needed to bring energy, vibrancy, great service and a fantastic food experience," Smith says. "We wanted a vibrant mix of restaurants, bars, cafes and street food. We also wanted to bring more new brands to Leeds. Every operator in Trinity Kitchen is new to the city."
"Land Securities did a really good job of selling the project," says Robert Robinson, co-founder of Notes Cafe, which before opening at Trinity Kitchen only had branches in London.
"The location of Trinity on the crossroads of some of the UK's busiest pedestrian streets, combined with the high footfall of the shopping centre itself convinced us it would be a busy site. The Trinity Kitchen concept is also a genuine departure from existing shopping centre food courts, so we were happy it would fit well with our speciality coffee concept."
"It's completely unique," agrees Stephen Wall, co-founder and managing director of Pho. "It's a dynamic scheme in the heart of Leeds, and we like the mix of restaurant operators. Trinity Kitchen works from a brand perspective in a way that many other developments, especially shopping centres, don't."
Not only can we expect more brands - think Wasabi, Roast & Conch [a new concept by Hotel Chocolat] Leeds Tapped, Muffin Break and Meat Liquor - to set up shop, but the new development could affect the dining out scene across the city.
"I hope Crafthouse and Angelica will prove to be a catalyst for more high-quality restaurants coming into Leeds," Gunewardena says. "I hope what we have done and what Trinity is doing will set a trend and make Leeds one of the UK's leading cities for top restaurants."
The rotating street food concept
Each month, five street food vendors, chosen by Richard Johnson, the organiser of the British Street Food Awards, will bring their vans to Trinity Kitchen to trade in an authentic market setting, complete with benches, street art and an indoor flowering wall.
"Every four weeks the incumbent vans are lowered out of the building and five new ones are lifted in to replace them," explains Paul Smith of Land Securities. "This means that on most occasions, when customers visit, they will have something new to try. We're even holding a consumer poll to determine their favourite street food operator and we will invite the winners back for a free slot."
According to Smith, this arrangement doesn't only benefit Trinity Kitchen's customers - the vendors are equally happy. "For many, four weeks is the longest they've ever traded in consecutive days," he notes. "They are usually transient and move from patch to patch, working festivals and other events around the country."
The permanent residents
Eating, drinking and socialising are becoming increasingly important parts of consumers' shopping experience. "Shoppers are looking for choice, difference and ultimately, a great experience that they can share with others," says Paul Smith of Land Securities.
Trinity Leeds delivers on all fronts. "It's a team effort," he says. "Throughout Trinity Leeds we have a wide and varied offer to cater for most peoples' needs. Be it fine dining at D&D London's Crafthouse restaurant, cocktails and craft beers at the Alchemist or the Botanist, family days out at Giraffe or Nando's, lunch with colleagues at Trinity Kitchen or a coffee with friends at Notes café - there's something to suit everyone's tastes."
And it doesn't matter if your taste is different from your other half's or your colleague's - at Trinity Kitchen, everyone can eat together. "We're social animals and Trinity Kitchen provides a perfect environment for people to share their personal time, be it with friends, colleagues or the family," Smith says. "There is more and more pressure on people's time, so when it comes to kicking back and grabbing a bite to eat, where you do that and who you do that with are really important."