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Food Courts : Adding a Flavour to Mall Business


The way to a man’s heart, is through his stomach. The proverb is much applicable for shoppers as well and no one knows it better than those who are in mall business.

Good food has an undeniable appeal and increasingly, shopping centre developers are experimenting with tastes and cuisines to woo the  shoppers. While mall developers are increasingly trying to offer a complete shopping plus entertainment package to new age shoppers, foodcourt  is fast becoming one of the most crucial element in it.

More so, in a country like India, where every celebration and festivity revolves around food, mall developers are now focusing more on the food court like never before. In fact, food orientation is an immensely important part of regional culture in India. From  wedding to religious festivals, food remain a core element of all the occasions. Hence food courts are becoming one of most important part of mall culture. More than just about serving food, the food courts in mall business have acquired greater responsibility of creating an emotional bond with new age shoppers.

“Food court in a mall is a mutually beneficial entity that works in tandem with the mall. The synergy in Food Court provides add-on advantage to the mall and vice versa. The concept behind the food court was to complement the mall for dining options and a format which is easily accessible, convenient and is a crowd puller”. says Benu Sehgal, Vice President – Mall Management, DLF Place, Saket.

Serving the right taste on the platter

Keeping in mind the profile of the shoppers , DLF Place, Saket boasts of  bringing together the ideal brand mix with International & Local admired players after a thorough market research.  DLF , Saket  has approximately 28,000 sq ft super built up area dedicated for food court  called EAT –Food lounge. Operated by  the group’s own outfit -DLF Utilities Limited, it has vendor like vendors like McDonalds, Haldiram’s, Domino’s pizza, Karims, Subway, Kylin Express, Sagar Ratna, Brown Sugar, Tikka Town, Zaitoon, Teppanyaki Kings, Soy Express, Joe’s Sizzler, Baker St, Karim’s, Haribo, Pio’s, Choco Xcess and  Kings Kulfi.

“ The vision was to make the food court a much sought after place with good quality food, attractive brand mix, hygienic and value for money. This has been an ongoing process since the beginning and management will only improvise and build on this strong foundation to take the DLF Place food court from strength to strength!” adds Sehgal.

Simultaneously, City Centre , Salt Lake Kolkata ,developed by Kolkata based Ambuja Realty, adding variety of options from fast food to local favourites was the idea. The food court named ‘Hang Out” in City Centre  Salt lake, New Town, Siliguri  are operated  by the developer’s own outfit . “The favourite food court was conceived with an idea that in the coming years it would eventually become the one stop destination for all cuisines where one can enjoy a unhurried sit-down meal with his friends and family. After a tiring shopping session at the mall, one can just come to the food court, spend some relaxed time and also enjoy a delectable meal choosing from a varying options, that too at a cheaper cost than other expensive fine dining restaurants.” Explains Pramod Dwivedi

After a thorough market research, prominent names like Subway, Flury’s , Dominos, Tea Junction, Hot & Spicy, Sizling & Sizzlers, Cheers, Hidden Dragon, Curry Patta, Flavours, Chipootli were roped in to add a dash of different cuisines to Hangout in City Centre New Town. “ We have chosen our vendors based on three parameters – quality of food, Variety of cuisine and popularity of the brand.” Explains Dwivedi. In city Centre Salt Lake, the Ambuja Neotia Group  has added a variety of cuisines which include  players like Stun the Sun- mocktails, continental , @Forty Nine- (Thai0, Hot & Spicy(Chinese), Crown(south Indian), Yumie Tumie(Chaat),Hidden Dragon( Mughlai & Thai), Zafraan( North Indian & Tandoori), Amigos Cantina- (Continental & Mexican), Fast Filling Two-  Finger( foods and snacks).

“It’s very important to have the right brand mix, covering global cuisines to lend advantage of having different cuisines under one roof. Brand perception, operating skill of the tenant in terms of maintaining food quality, hygiene is also very critical in finalising a tenant.” Says Sehgal of DLF , Saket.

Her words are echoed by Dr. Prodipta Sen,Executive Director, Alpha G: Corp , as he says “The ‘core’ strengths of any good food court are fast service, good quality food, range of cuisines to choose from, a good ambiance for family and friends. We always look for players and partners with the same thought process that goes to enhance the F&B, shopping and entertainment experience for customers. We took care to have the right mix of national and international players not to mention the addition of local flavour by way of the regional vendors.” Flavours at AlphaOne, Amritsar boasts of being one of  Asia’s largest food with assorted cuisines offered by vendors ike Dominos, Amritsari Dil Se, Chaat Express, Dosa Place, Teppenyaki, Kuch Meetha Ho Jaye, Chocolate Room, Bangs, Kings Kulfi, Twist Patato, Subway, Coke, Honey Hut, Kathizone, Canton Express, Sandwizza and Awadh.

Creating a Destination Feel

Post the slowdown of the economy, developers have started giving emphasis on more traditional restaurants to draw a larger footprint and provide more of a destination feel to a mall. As even the biggest names in retail  are failing to attract customer footfalls, food courts are becoming essential to retain mall traffic. Most developers have started to give more important to food &beverage regional malls are adding clusters of fast-food outlets or embarking on major renovations and additions to stay competitive. In the process food courts have also evolved in terms of layout as well as variety. Developers are keen on dedicating larger spaces with an attractive central eating space and making them as much comfortable, convenient and eye catching as well.  In DLF , Saket , the food court EATZ has been created with ample seating space to accommodate the large number of visitors with indoor and outdoor seating, pleasant ambiance and quick operating processes to make the experience hassle free and agreeable along with a dedicated area on the terrace with play rides to engage kids & families which can also be utilised for arranging special occasion parties.

The food court by Ambuja Neotia  Group  named as “Hang Out “ has been created as an adda zone offering a range of spreads where  one can enjoy a relaxed , un hurried sumptuous mean with friends.

Unique positioning to cater to target segment

Most food courts are adding variety according to the local taste. Some of them are emphasising on finding the appropriate positioning as both indulgent and familiar destination. It seems the trick lies in understanding what makes mall shoppers tick. Flavours at AlphaOne, Ahmedabad is a 100% Vegetarian food court, providing an international environment, varied cuisines and sanitized environment to the patrons, besides specialty dining.  The food court has vendors like Dosa Express, Café Bollywood, Chatkkaz, Nukkad, Shambhu’s, Teppenyaki, Dosa Place, D Vada’s, Midday Munchies, Dangee Dums, Mocktail Shots, The Chocolate Room, Happinezz, Café Souq, Desi Delight, Potatoh Korner, Punjabi By Heart, Asharfilal, Amore, Truly Fresh and Talod.

One of the country’s newest addition and Kolkata’s one of the premiums malls, RPG’s Quest, for the first time in the country, has a dedicated ‘Restaurant Court’ with a Food Court. The idea was to implement the flow of customers to bring into entertainment and food together, with a mix of International brands and World Class Cuisines . “To make it the best Food Court, benchmarked to the world class Food Courts, we offer Indian, International and Pan Asian Cuisines with the ability to evolve and change as and when the taste of the patrons  evolve. Our vision was to make it upmarket with the state of art infrastructure facilities and services.” Says Sanjiv Mehra , General Manager – Operations, Quest. The 7,20,000 sq ft mall  has dedicated a massive 56,000 sq ft area for food court operated by Global Kitchen Kolkata (GKK). Keeping in mind the premium international brand mix of the mall with names like Gucci, Burberry,Paul Smith, Nautica, Swarovski, FCUK and Michael Kors, the mall’s food court vendor list also reflect names like Chili’s, Au Bon Pain, KFC, PHD, South China, Mezze, DesiStreat and  Masala Kitchen. The Restaurant Court of the mall has equally popular names like Yauatcha, Serafina, Smoke House Deli, Bombay Brasserie and Irish House.   The mall, having its own, unique and premium positioning has maintained the same strategy while selecting its food vendors. However along with its variety of cuisine, the mall had focus on other parameters which often become crucial for the successful operations of the food court.  The mall emphasised on the following parameters like

  • The overall experience
  • Repetition of the operator
  • Financial Stability
  • Mixture of Indian and International brands
  • The ability to scale up

However, for malls like City Centre, the positioning of the food court has been on demand and pricing. For  Hangout, the foodcourt in City Centre New Town , Ambuja Neotia Group  follows an aggressive and competitive pricing of the menu which has also resulted in a high return per sq ft value .

A social destination

Apart from revenue contribution, food courts also play a major role in retaining the consumer in the mall for a longer period of time by giving them a reason other than shopping.  In fact, in some cases food courts produce more revenue from leases than fast-food outlets scattered in the malls and give a reason to the shopper to spend more time. Moreover, since eating at a restaurant is a fundamentally social activity, offering a wide range of eating options in a comfortable ambience, encourages people to come in groups .

Hence increasingly food courts are becoming a  social destination especially for youngsters and some of the mall developers are exploring this aspect through aggressive social media activities, events to create an stronger emotional bond with shoppers. The Alpha One mall in Amritsar and Ahmedabad, developed by Alpha G corp conducts planned activities to gather  daily feedback from customers, regular conversations with customers and polls on the mall’s  Facebook page to  keep themselves abreast of the evolving customer expectations. To promote its food court and to establish a direct link with the shoppers ,the mall management  has launched  initiatives like

Facebook fan page with a dedicated Flavours tab. The platform has been created to start an  online community where patrons could check out detailed menu cards, latest attractions and events, etc., acquiring a fan base of more than 86,165 at AlphaOne, Ahmedabad and 37,800 at AlphaOne, Amritsar, respectively. Patrons actively used the space to blog about their experiences at Flavours and the time spent with family and friends there.

Food displays, special deals and limited offer menus continue to draw the audiences towards the food court.
To take the patronage to the next level, the mall managent has  invested in a unique mobile loyalty program to reward and delight the regular patrons of Flavours, the food court.

To offer better facilities and convenience the mall management collects monthly feedbacks from retail partners and food court vendors and findings are built back into marketing and leasing strategies on a regular level. “ Only a customer friendly city centre and family destination including food court will make the customers want to come back time and again to relish the experience and general sense of well-being. Having an infrastructure and right food counters can get the initial walk-ins.” believes Dr.Prodipta Sen, Executive Director: Alpha G Corp.
Flavours, the food court at Alpha One mall has been a major footfall driver for the mall. At Flavours, AlphaOne, Ahmedabad the average footfall on weekdays is  15000 to 20000  and on weekends  it rises to almost Average 32500 to 55000 .Simultaneously at  Flavours, AlphaOne, Amritsar , the average footfall on weekdays is  10000 to 15000 which goes up to 25000 to 42500 on Weekends .

“ The mall marketing team regularly formulates and executes exciting promotions to encourage footfalls at the food court along with cross promotions with various events, DT Star Cinemas etc. Strategic branding in the mall to spread awareness about the new players in the food court and most importantly having the right brand offering.”explains Benu Sehgal , VP – Mall Management, DLF Place, Saket.

Apart from being a major driver of footfalls, food courts represent an integral and even separate retail category today. In the last few years food courts have emerged as  one of the major  and consistent sources of revenue for malls. On average food courts contributes almost 8-10 per cent and even 12 per cent of the total mall revenue. AS mall culture grips the country and the business of malls becomes more evolved, food courts are going to be an interesting segment where interesting activities can be noticed.  In the coming years, with more number of professional players coming up as specialized food court operators, mall developers entering the food court business the category will have a lot to watch out for.