It’s All About Stomachs…

First published in ACROSS – February 2017

So, we have arrived in 2017, the world is changing again and this year promises to be one of the most “interesting” for a long, long time. I am going to avoid completely any political comment, as I cannot even begin to imagine how things will play out, given the first 4 weeks of the year.

I enjoy writing for ACROSS, which has established itself very quickly as one of the “go to” publications in our industry. As I travel the world I am constantly reminded how successful it is by the number of people who stop me at meetings, conferences and events and comment on my last article, or industry comment or the recent future predictions. It makes you realise exactly how many people do read ACROSS and how well regarded it is. It also prompted me to think a little bit more about the contributions that I will be making this year. Humour, commentary and observation is always good, (especially in the world at the moment) but valuable “take out” information and insight is better, and I think I know a little bit about that in the world of food. In many cases, it isn’t “new” information, it’s just “new” to the shopping centre and property industry.

So, when I set out to write this article I wanted it to be more interesting, more helpful and to provide more easy to apply information for the Developer and Landlord community and for the advisors that are out there.

I cannot believe how many food “experts” there are in the world now. The property industry is full of agents, consultants, designers and architects all of whom specialise in “Foodservice”, “Horeca”, “Catering” or “F&B”, depending on which part of the world you come from, but nobody ever talks about stomachs. Stomachs are good, stomachs are great, stomachs are essential!

I have a stomach, like almost all other human beings, and I like to eat. Anybody that knows me, knows that my passion is food and drink, that I love to talk food and I am on a one-man mission to change the world of foodservice to be a better place, but I couldn’t do that without stomachs.

Attracting Local Office Workers

As human beings, we need to eat every 2-4 hours, and regardless of which diet or lifestyle you follow, if you don’t eat, you will sadly pass away. Uniquely this means that customers or “guests” to a foodservice offer in shopping centres are regular returners, or at least willing to return, if the offer is right. From the research, we have done, we have found that a great foodservice offer can attract local office workers into a centre 2-3 times a week, often more than the retail offer does.

So, let’s look at foodservice versus retail from the consumer’s perspective. Our “guest” gets hungry every 2-4 hours, so over a 2.5-hour dwell time in a shopping centre, they can be expected to “snack and eat” or “drink and graze” twice during that time. That’s GOOD news. However, if all you give them is good old traditional North America fast food, then their spend is going to be low – a few Euros each time – That’s BAD news.

We think that the “shopping places” and the people that run them, own them, manage them and design them, need to reflect a range of food opportunities and locations and a range of price points, and there is one fundamental reason for this. The RETAIL guest and the FOODSERVICE guest act and behave in entirely different ways. The retail guest can keep shopping, all day, as long as they have enough credit balance on their cards, places to store their purchases and energy and shoe leather to keep going! They can, and do, move through shopping centres like locusts, acquiring everything in their path. Apart from short breaks, they can go on and on. The female of the species is particularly good at this.

Shifting Focus away from Footfall

Turn to the FOODSERVICE guest and it simply isn’t the same. Once we start using our stomach, we get full and we can’t “buy” again for another 2-4 hours. This limits our ability to consume, slows us down and makes us focus on “meal occasions” throughout the day. We all know that footfalls and visitor numbers are unlikely to be rising any time soon, as competition increases, choice and variety continues and ever more splendid and attractive locations are delivered around the world.

So why am I obsessed by stomachs? Simple. Every Landlord, Developer, Designer, Consultant and Advisor who has anything to do with Foodservice needs to focus on stomachs, not footfall. They need to think that every time they fill that guests stomach, they need to take as much money in that transaction as possible – one stomach equals one meal. The rent on that transaction, if the meal is 30 euros is much more appealing than if it was 3 euros. In both cases the stomach is full, but the rent that squeezes out of it is 10 times more……..

The last thing I am trying to do is give you indigestion, but if you continue to offer cheap food and snacks only, your “stomachs” that come to visit your shopping centre will only be able to eat cheap food and snacks. Diversity, choice, variety and experience will offer service and product options, alcohol, dining not eating and drive that “Euro per stomach” that is so essential to the continuing success of foodservice today. Now more than ever, the stomach matters. To prove this, I end with a quote:

“When a man’s stomach is full it makes no difference whether he is rich or poor” (Euripides)

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