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edition 10 (224)
October 2017
Retail & leisure

Recipe for a pleasure zone

Will the food courts in Polish shopping centres soon be indistinguishable from the best in the world?

Magdalena Rachwald

Recipe for a pleasure zone
Forum Gdańsk – project by Sud Architectes

Food courts in Polish shopping centres have been getting larger and undergoing some dramatic changes. This is a trend that is set to continue, since the restaurant and café offer can potentially be turned into one of the main attractions for customers

‘We are spending ever more on eating out and, according to ‘The Global Food & Beverage Market, July 2017’ report by Cushman & Wakefield, we will probably be spending even more in the future. This is good news for managers and owners – some of this money could end up in shopping centres. The two most noticeable trends on the current Polish food & drinks market have been the growing popularity of food trucks (which shopping centres have also allowed onto their premises as an additional way of drawing in customers), and the emergence of higher quality food halls, which bring together many restaurants and food stores under one roof. One of these is Hala Koszyki, which opened in Warsaw last year. ‘Three or four similar projects are being developed in the capital city already,’ says Michał Malicki of Colliers International’s retail department. One is the revitalisation project for the historic buildings of the Powiśle heat and power station, where a significant part has been earmarked for gastronomic purposes. The food hall concept is one that has been successfully up-and-running for some time across the world, with the most spectacular example being the Markthal in Rotterdam, which opened in 2014 – a huge market hall covered by a dome, including offices and luxury apartments. Some individual stores also tempt potential customers inside with their catering. And by this I not only mean Ikea’s well-known restaurant sections, but, for example, the Engelhorn store in the German city of Mannheim, where you can not only buy clothes but also drink champagne in the bar or have dinner in the two Michelin star restaurant. Shopping centre developers also seem to be taking advantage of the growing demand for food, as food courts occupy an increasing percentage of malls. According to Cushman & Wakefield, they now take up app. 15–20 pct of the leasable space in new or modernised centres across the world (when food courts first emerged, in the 1970s, they occupied 5–8 pct of the gla). Restaurant areas are no longer an addition to the retail on offer, they could be the reason why we go to the shopping centre in the first place. ‘I believe that the next few years could see significant changes in terms of rents. Food courts are taking over the role of anchor tenants in malls. This is a response to the reduction in space leased by grocery operators. Food courts will represent the most effective weapon in the battle for customers. I am not ruling out a situation where the most interesting restaurant formats that attract shoppers to the mall will be able to expect preferential terms,’ believes Michał Malicki of Colliers International.

Beautiful stools as well as sofas

Designating large areas for restaurants, bars and other food & drink stands is only the beginning of the process. It is important how the area is designed and thought-out. Of course, ideally customers should fall in love with it – so it cannot resembles a school or military canteen. This is where architects, who can often be from distinguished architectural studios, can let their imaginations run riot. The area must, of course, be functional, but it can also be designed to make an impression, as the elaborate ceilings in the food court of Galeria Mokotów in Warsaw clearly do after being refurbished a few years back. Chairs and other seats are being given a more designer look, while the lamps hanging above the tables look like they have been plucked from an interior design fair. One good example of how the approach to food courts is changing is the restaurant area in Galeria Jurajska in Częstochowa, which, due to the selection of furniture, lighting and additional elements, now looks like an elegant restaurant – or perhaps more like a food hall, given its size.

Modern food courts focus on variety – there are benches, sofas and pouffes apart from chairs. In Galeria Północna which has just opened in Warsaw’s Białołęka district, tables, chairs and bar stools are positioned in the central part of the gastronomy zone, while comfortable sofas have been fitted around the edge and near the window. Developers are embracing the latest trends elsewhere, too: ‘In Galeria Libero in Katowice we have created a zone for ‘traditional’ tables for two to four people as well as a ‘common table’ with seats and bar stools,’ explains Tomasz Domoń, a regional leasing director in Echo Investment’s shopping centre department. Such a ‘common table’ – a large one where strangers can sit together and co-mingle, will also feature in newly-developed Galeria Młociny in Warsaw and in the recently renovated Galeria Wisła in Płock.

Green as a food court

Modern restaurant areas are often full of greenery and light. And because daylight matters most while eating, skylights are generally scaled back. Many restaurant areas are located near a glass frontage, such as in the case of the recently redeveloped Wola Park in Warsaw, while it will be possible to gaze upon Gdańsk’s Old Town from the food court in redeveloped Galeria Madison.

Restaurant areas are also appearing on the roofs of shopping centres and their green areas. The Grand Kitchen restaurant area in Wroclavia, which is to open this autumn, will neighbour gardens covering a total of over 4,000 sqm of the centre. The design of Forum Gdańsk, meanwhile, includes a terrace on the escarpment facing Wały Jagiellońskie, which looks onto the historic Main City. ‘Thanks to this the residents of the TriCity and tourists will be able to access the cafés and restaurants from the outside. These will be open until late at night, after the centre has closed,’ reveals Małgorzata Słowick, the director of the leasing department at Multi Poland, the developer of Forum. The food court in Galeria Północna in Warsaw has a direct exit to the garden on the roof, which contains natural plants as well as play and relaxation areas. ‘About half of the eateries in Galeria Północna are situated in the food court on the second floor of the mall, which has direct access to the roof garden. Cafés and restaurants will also be located in other parts of the mall. Some of these, such as Starbucks and Bierhalle, will be accessible directly from the street and will feature summer gardens,’ says Agnieszka Nowak, the director of Galeria Północna for GTC. Galeria Madison in Gdańsk, which was opened in 2003, is also being renovated, which will include the terrace with its panoramic view of Gdańsk Old Town and the adjacent food court. A green garden under the roof is to be created in the chill out area in Galeria Libero.

Keep to your zone

Customers can use such areas after finishing their shopping or during a break. It can also be the case that the restaurants and cafés are the main draw of the shopping centre – thus the opening hours of the eateries will differ from those of the shops. Restaurant areas are also being combined with entertainment areas – situated next to cinemas and children’s play areas. But the designers of the centre or the food & drinks zone itself have to bear in mind that different customers have different needs and that they can also disturb each other. Different zones include various amenities: for families there are baby chairs, play areas and microwave ovens for warming up the food; while for those who need to work there are sockets for plugging in mobile devices. Silesia City Center in Katowice, which has recently unveiled its modernisation plans, has divided its planned catering area into five zones (separated with special acoustic panels). One is an area for families with children connected to a play area. The food & drinks area in Factory Outlet in Kraków is to include three zones: one for families with children, one for a short break from shopping offering fast food, and the other a relaxation area including a café and rest area.

There is also currently a trend for splitting the restaurant areas into various segments: restaurants with a waiter service are usually segregated from fast food outlets – the latter are concentrated in the food courts, while the former occupy a number of places around the shopping centre. Złote Tarasy in Warsaw has a shared food court on the third floor, as well as restaurants and cafés grouped in a separate area on the second floor, where guests can sit inside an internal garden. ‘Apart from the food zone in the Forum Gdańsk shopping complex, there will also be a three-level Va Bene restaurant, which will be located in the renovated building of the former Sisters of Saint Elizabeth nursery school,’ adds Małgorzata Słowik.

Local attractions

The gastronomy offer in shopping centres usually comprises brands offering pizza, hamburgers, Asian cuisine, sushi and Polish cuisine. Shopping centres not only include the large operators that specialise in such locations and are popular with shoppers (who know what to expect of them), but also smaller, local companies. “One of Wroclavia’s tenants is Food Republic, which was established by Kuchnia Marché especially for this shopping centre. Many of our operators are catering concepts that originate from Wrocław and are very popular in the city, such as Pasibus, Polish Lody and Etno Café,” explains Dorothy Sydor, a leasing director at Unibail-Rodamco. Developers and managers also have to be open to the increasing variety of gastronomy concepts. Smaller operators create a unique range and variety that attracts customers equally as well as proven concepts. Pop-up stores – small, temporary stands with a non-standard range of goods – can also form a significant part of a centre’s catering. One good example of this is ice-cream vendor Lodovnia, which is situated in the yard of Stary Browar in Poznań . The modern container for the stall was designed by the Mode:lina architectural studio, while the unusual flavours and forms of ice creams it sells are its own concept. Health food, including vegetarian cuisine, has is also been increasing in popularity Market analysts suggest that combining the restaurant offer with the sale of grocery products works well in food zones. Part of the food court can include small shops or market stalls with an interesting range of groceries. This is how the food courts in Silesia City Center in Katowice and Galeria Młociny in Warsaw have been planned. ‘We want to combine the idea of traditional food markets and specialist shops with the concepts of modern, open halls with attractive restaurants and cafés in the food court of Galeria Młociny. To do this we are following the best examples – Time Out in Lisbon and the restaurant areas in such Barcelona centres as La Maquinista and El Mercat de Glories,’ claims Szymon Mińczuk, a regional leasing director in Echo Investment’s shopping centre department.

Dariusz Hyc

the general designer of the Maas architectural studio

Evolution with a larger budget

Food courts are evolving together with shopping centres. The changes started with refurbishing the toilets; now they are investing in the entire public area, the passageways and the restaurant zones. The point is not for the customer to just have something to eat and leave – the area has to be designed to keep them there for longer. Small changes are initially carried out, such replacing the lighting, and then the decision is taken to rearrange everything. The budgets for these development projects are definitely higher, while the materials are also changing, particularly on the floors. Acres of 30x30 cm ceramic tiles on the floors are now out, replaced by wood-effect panels or even by natural wood. More space is reserved for the cafés and other types of coffee shop – over the last twenty years Poles have become great enthusiasts for coffee. In my opinion, as far as the solutions used in restaurant areas are concerned, we are meeting global standards – we have definitely caught up with the rest of Europe.

Paweł Nawrot

expansion director at Olimprest

Design is not enough, you still need good food

From our point of view the appearance of the food court is of less importance. If the food is so-so, the potential of the most attractive gastronomy zone will not be utilised and the owner will make less money than they could from the rent, as this is dependent on the tenants’ turnover. That is why the tenant mix is important – from the point of view of the operator and from the perspective of the owner or manager of the centre. The restaurants must offer good quality and tasty food, but they also have to be chosen to make the range of food on offer complementary. Individual outlets must not cannibalise each other. It is necessary to monitor the trends and customers’ expectations. That is why the menu of the Olimp restaurant includes vegetarian and healthy dishes. We have successfully launched a new concept, Like Thai, recently because we can see that Poles are very interested in Asian food. However, the majority still go for their childhood flavours – Polish cuisine.

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