‘We are ready for change’

Jonathan Doughty, Global Head, Foodservice, Leisure and Placemaking, ECE

The food and restaurant scene is changing dramatically and it’s having a big impact on shopping centres, Jonathan Doughty, Projektmanagement, told Real Estate Day.

‘We are ready for change.  What we are witnessing is the Tesla moment, when the electric car industry started to change for good,’ he said. ‘We are seeing massive changes in people’s habits, new dishes on menus and above all a big shift to vegan, plant-based food’.

Another trend in the restaurant industry, he said, is to pay more attention to specific product ranges and to where the products are coming from, as well as new interpretations of food from around the world being ‘translated’ into other countries.

The group is trying to offer something new and exciting to customers, Doughty said, as for example with the newly opened Foodtopia at the MyZeil shopping centre in Frankfurt.

‘There are going to be 16 restaurants, bars, cafes and food units in a beautiful environment,’ he said. ‘We want to give people something familiar, but in a new light and with a new twist’.

Continental Europe is a more promising environment than the UK, which has seen careless expansion and many failures. 

‘The restaurant industry in the UK was heavily fuelled by venture capital and everyone got on the bandwagon, took the investment and was forced to grow and expand,’ he said. ‘It became a overheated market’.

Then Brexit happened, bringing along reduced confidence and much lower demand which led to failures.

‘It is just not like that in Europe,’ Doughty said. ‘People are a lot more cautious in their approach’.

There is a lot of room for improvement in the F&B offering in shopping centres, he said: ‘Food levels in general are quite low, they are still very functional and uninspiring, so there is much work to do’.

The F&B offering can improve and even transform a shopping centre but ‘it is not a panacea’, Doughty said. It takes more than a restaurant to create a destination. ‘We have to build places that are a bit more in tune with their social requirements and create environments that people actually want to be in’.

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