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Food Courts: The new shopping centre anchors

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What brings a shopper to malls? Great brands, excellent ambience, family entertainment zones? While it’s true that all of these factors are crowd-pullers, what really brings in the footfalls is a great foodservice offering.
Traditionally, shopping has always been associated with leisure and fun and no relaxed outing is complete without a great food experience.
Be it busy high streets of Delhi or new-age shopping malls, food and leisure have always played an integral part in every shopping destination. The gradual progression of food courts in shopping malls is a testament to this. The evolution from a select few fast-food kiosks a decade ago to the vast variety of fine-dine options in malls today proves that food as a part of a mall’s eco-system has come a long way.
Talking about this in the Indian context, Arijit Chatterjee, Chief Operating Officer, Junction Mall says, “Those days are gone when malls were considered to be only shopping destinations.
We consider our mall to be a family entertainment zone and foodservices are a very important of what we offer – a natural crowd puller. Aside from being a major driver of footfalls, food courts represent an integral and even separate retail category today. In the last few years they have emerged as one of the major and consistent sources of revenue for malls.”
Speaking in the same vein, Yogeshwar Sharma, Executive Director and CEO, Select Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd. says, “Malls today are hubs of urban life. They are more than shopping centres. They have become destinations for experiences.
They provide an option for outing for the entire family and cover diverse demographics; hence foodservice is very important in malls as that makes the entire experience a comprehensive one.”
“A food court in a mall enhances the overall customer experience. It is an important attract to incentivize patrons to visit the mall and we have observed that approximately 80 percent of the total visitors flock to the food court to relish a meal. Thus, foodservice is very important in the mall,” adds Mukesh Kumar, CEO, Infiniti Mall.
What Research Says
According to a 2019 study by research firm JLL, 40 percent of customers will choose a shopping centre based solely on the food offerings there, and nearly 38 percent of these people want healthy options.
The study further says that getting people into the mall with good food often means they’ll spend more, too. Apart from this, transactions increase as much as 25 percent at malls with quality food-and-beverage options. JLL also says that shoppers who eat at the mall are spending up to 15 percent more per trip.
“Many a time, repeat visits to a mall are for a good meal and shopping and/ or entertainment becomes the by-product. ‘Eating out’ has grown exponentially as a segment, and for an average Indian shopper, who is well-travelled and is more open to trying out new cuisines, a mall, with a variety of cuisines on offer, is the perfect dining destination,” says Anuj Arora, General Manager, Oberoi Mall.
“It is to be noted that shopping is more of a personal and individual or a limited group activity, which may be limited to a fewer times in a month as compared to indulging in F&B experiences are more often and encourage wider groups, formal and informal meetings,” adds Sachin Dhanawade, Chief Operating Officer (COO), Retail & Real Estate, Grauer & Weil (India) Limited.
Malls as Culinary Destinations
Food courts in shopping malls are the gastronomic destination for shopaholics and foodies alike that are playing a pivotal role in increasing footfalls in shopping centres. With the trend of eating out on the rise, it is natural that malls are using this category to lure in visitors.
Highlighting the importance of foodservice in malls, Abhishek Bansal, Executive Director, Pacific Group states, “The F&B category has become a mainstay for malls. People throng to malls and can leave early if good foodservice is not available inside. This facility helps in extending the time people spend in the mall thereby increasing the chances of them taking a call on buying various other products from shops.”
“The foodservice industry captures over 50 percent of consumers food expenditures and rapidly growing due to the changing consumer demographics, economic factors, technological advancements and exposure to global cuisines. Also, the younger generation does not have interest in cooking. They derive a high value of pleasure from eating out and restaurants are naturally looked at as recreation centres in a highly stressful urban lifestyle. The ever-shrinking world due to internet and e-commerce, has brought a variety to menus as cultures and cuisines have converged, introducing new flavours and textures,” says Mahesh M, CEO, Creaticity.
Fashion Vs Foodservice – Which is a Better Crowd Puller?
Popular fashion labels with great deals and offers continue to attract the crowd. Having said that, F&B is becoming a key puller as compared to earlier. The mall industry has realised that foodservices cannot be limited to a food court. Hence, a chain of restaurants too have set up their businesses inside the mall.
“Viviana Mall has always looked forward to creating unique experiences for customers that go beyond just shopping.
An ideal blend of distinctive retail, F&B, and recreation ideas makes Viviana Mall a destination that leaves customers perpetually amazed,” stated Manoj K Agarwal, CEO, Viviana Mall.
“Over the years, Oberoi Mall has emerged as a preferred destination for leisure, fashion and lifestyle offerings resulting in increasing footfalls and spends every year in the mall.
This has given the comfort and confidence to our F&B partners to keep reinventing themselves to adapt to the changing palate of our patrons. Consequently, we see an emerging trend of patrons shifting their purpose of visit to Oberoi Mall to ‘first eat then shop’ instead of ‘first shop then eat’,” says Arora.
At present, both fashion and foodservice as two different categories help cross pollinate footfalls and encourage higher consumption.
“Fashion has its own pull, but F&B along with entertainment has come out to be a major anchor which is driving people to the mall and in the present scenario we have designs which have the food court sitting at the top of the mall, so that this crowd eventually can seep down into the retail area and spend money there. We definitely have stronger F&B brands entering into the Indian market and F&B has started showing more promise than earlier,” says Sanjeev Mehra, VP, Quest Properties India Ltd.
The myth that ‘fashion’ will be the key driver for mall business is changing. It is pretty much a proper mix of all categories which contribute to the success of any shopping mall, foodservice being one of the key drivers.
“We are living in an Experience Economy. Consumers are increasingly going for consumptions which offers them more of experiences. Hence, we are increasingly seeing Food & Entertainment as the new anchors overtaking the fashion as the main anchor in the malls. In malls the percentage of GLA allocated to Food & Entertainment is increasing year on year looking at the customer preferences to invest their time and wallet and from a mall perspective also these categories are also no guilt categories helping to increase the stickiness of shoppers in the mall,” says Munish Khanna, CRO, Express Avenue.
“The trend has not changed but evolved. Consumers have also evolved, and so have their preferences. Fashion and retail will always be a significant pull for consumers, as they like the ‘touch’ and ‘feel’ aspect of shopping in a pleasing ambience. However, today, they look for a holistic and comprehensive experience or if we may say so a ‘lifestyle’ experience. Hence fashion, beauty, entertainment, and F&B are all factors in attracting consumers,” explains Yogeshwar Sharma.
How Malls Are Highlighting F&B
Food courts have become a veritable crowd magnet and offering the best in food to patrons at one place is quickly becoming the ‘mall USP’ in India.
“In Junction Mall, we take food service very seriously and are continuously developing the category. We have an in-house team which runs the food court.
We are currently renovating the food court to give it an exclusive identity – we will be extending its area. In fact, we have planned and executed an open café concept on every floor to give options to customers for additional leisure time and space,” explains Chatterjee.
And a fancy food court is not all that malls do. They also organise various food festivals and carry cross-promotional activities to engage consumers. The new trend which is picking up these days is getting the foodcourts/ restaurants reviewed by bloggers.
“As weekends attract more crowds, we have weekend offers which are communicated to consumers through various channels much earlier in the week so that they can organise their weekend plans well in time. We also do weekday food promotions to attract customers and provide additional business to food outlets. Apart from this, we have annual promotions SIP Fest, Pub Crawl and Chai Pakodas, traditional food festivals, etc. We have also carved out a special zone for families to organise birthday parties. A dedicated zone has been created in the food court for children,” says Agarwal.
Similarly, Oberoi Mall has also curated and launched a biannual property, ‘FoodFest’ where they collaborate with their F&B partners and offer special cuisines at special rates, to entice and engage the patrons. “At Growel’s 1O1, every Tuesday’s our customers can enjoy the ‘Thoosday’ offer of flat 40 percent off on food offerings.
Besides, we also run dedicated food and beverage campaigns throughout the year. Restaurants also have dedicated offerings and campaigns throughout the year. We have also conducted workshops with Starbucks on coffee brewing for a more experiential coffee experience for our customers. Additionally, we have also done special campaigns for unique food offering like Ladu Samrat,” says Dhanawade.
Adding to this, Bansal says, “We work with our F&B brands very closely to increase their visibility within and outside the mall. We recently conducted a cookout session with celebrity Kunal Vijaykar where he not only tried and rated the food at various restaurants along with other popular bloggers but also carried out a cookout sessions in quite a few restaurants. Our food brands also partner with us in our events, a recent one being Comedy Fest with stand-up comics Amit Tandon and Atul Khatri. Periodic visits and get-togethers of F&B social media influencers at various restaurants is something that we do in conjunction with our F&B brands.
We also carry out a lot of cross promotions between food and fashion and lifestyle brands to cross pollinate the fashion and lifestyle driven customers to F&B and vice versa.”

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