The evolution of Food Courts.
Food courts are noticeably being replaced by high quality, contemporary dining precincts - an elaborate and planned collection of fresh food outlets, cafes and restaurants, both in and outlining centres as they form a larger part of the shopping centre experience. Eating out has become an essential luxury and these new ‘food courts’ are used increasingly as a driver of footfall as customers look for a space to not only transact, but to congregate.
The evolution of online shopping and home delivery has seen retail landlords stepping up to provide a distinct experiential dining precinct within their centres and in our investigations, we’ve seen certain design principles employed establishing some basic characteristics.
An outdoor element is popular especially among the new refurbishments we’re seeing. Whether it be a rooftop, or on high street, having an open-air or indoor/outdoor concept appears vital in establishing a successful product, adding to the existing nightlife surrounding it.
Having a ‘green’ presence goes hand-in-hand with centres supplying an outdoor dining environment. Consumers are responsive to plants, trees, grass and generally earthy tones akin to nature as Australian’s have a strong established outdoor culture. It’s a way to maintain the spirit of the outdoors regardless of where the precinct is situated and lengthens the duration of patronage.
Pathways connecting the dining precinct directly to street frontages and the car park as well as providing easy routes within the centre is key. Night time accessibility is fundamental, especially when these precincts remain open past normal trading centre hours.
While some internal food outlets will close when centre operating hours lapse, these new dining precincts allow for late trading and are marketed as such. Expanding retail trade not only benefits the retailers and landlord, it also provides an alternative dining experience to local residents and in some cases, tourists.
Adjoining or included in most new dining precincts are additional entertainment pockets i.e. areas for children to play safely, cinemas, even a stage for live entertainment. Centres wants to create a full-bodied experience that leads into the night. These evolved food courts act as an extension of existing night life outside centre boundaries or as a solution to a potential lack of options in the area.
The face of Australian food courts have evolved. We’re seeing more sophistication and complexity in new and improved dining precincts serving to completely eradicate the stigma of traditional food courts. Its simple - to drive and sustain foot traffic centres require a competitive edge, and the addition of a contemporary dining precinct and the revitalisation of existing precincts serve that purpose.