FOOD HALLS AND DINING HUBS – HOW TO BUILD A WINNING MIX OF F&B OUTLETS

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Curating the optimal mix of F&B outlets is essential for transforming food halls and other dining hubs into powerful spaces that offer rewarding guest experiences.  

This strategic process—whether targeted at malls; hotel resorts with multiple bars and restaurants in a single property; or various types of Retail, Dining and Entertainment (RDE) complexes—is also crucial for ensuring these venues become thriving assets that maintain high footfall and sustained profitability.  

As F&B Masterplanners who believe exceptional food experiences should be backed up by solid industry strategy, we outline a few essential steps for choosing the right blend of vendors within clustered F&B locations. 

STRIKING THE RIGHT BALANCE 

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Firstly, defining what success looks like for a food hall requires a balanced understanding of customer needs (those who will be visiting and spending money at the venue); client goals (those who own and operate the venue); and, tenants requirements (those who will operate the individual F&B outlets within a clustered F&B ecosystem and must profit from ongoing direct-to-consumers (DTC) sales).   

  • CUSTOMER NEEDS - At a very high level, customers look for ample variety, high quality, affordable prices, novelty, style and comfort, when choosing where to spend their money on F&B.  

  • CLIENT GOALS – Key goals for most clients typically include high footfall, decent rental yields, low costs, style, and attractive economics to lure anchor tenants. To varying degrees, these dining hubs must elevate a client’s existing portfolio of assets too, supporting long-term brand image and market positioning.   

  • TENANT REQUIREMENTS – Tenants—from food retail brands delivering beautifully packaged desserts to brands offering fine-dining quality food—desire high footfall, regular (and big) spenders, affordable rental rates, low operating costs, limited competition, and high-quality complementary adjacencies.  

Before the excitement of selecting F&B brands or developing brand-new concepts to place within a food hall, a clear understanding of the above is needed to plot a course that brings together everyone’s agenda, making commercial sense as well as delivering something exciting and customer-led to the market.  

BUILDING THE STRATEGY 

Building an optimal strategy starts with a suite of market research activities and ends with a clear presentation of findings and rationale to support the exciting process of tenant and brand selection. 

1. FRAMING THE OBJECTIVE 

Through marketing research, it’s important to identify everything that will have a bearing on the venue’s eventual success when the concept is brought to life. This includes developing knowledge about specific audiences and customer archetypes who will drive visitation within the space, as well as adding structure to key client goals and expectations.  

The objectives of a food hall operator within an existing mall, for instance, will differ from the objectives of a 5-star hotel group.

By closely collaborating with stakeholders to understand what they want; an appropriate business plan can be developed to guide a range of strategic decisions that follow.  

This process typically ends with a business plan and programming strategy for a space that can support projected footfall and a short ROI payback period, while being commercially attractive for anchor tenants.  

2. DATA GATHERING AND REVIEW

 A holistic approach to data gathering can include all of the below:  

  • Available market data for a range of key areas, including population demographics, tourism trends, average income and spending patterns, and cuisine or service style preferences.  

  • In-house data from similar real-life venues, covering average item value, order value, transactions per day, and other data sets that will offer sales and operational performance insights 

  • Key client-provided data relating to the existing space and customer behaviour, including allocated space for F&B, competition, and customer archetypes, as well as budget considerations and contextual information that allow us to develop a holistic understanding of the market and tailor our strategy to meet specific needs and opportunities.  

3. DATA MODELLING 

Data modelling for food hall strategy involves producing a detailed representation of key variables such as foot traffic patterns, customer demographics and spending behaviours to inform and optimise business planning and operational decisions.  

This will include various analytical techniques to predict visitation patterns, space utilisation, and financial performance.  

  • Visitation analysis estimates the number of people who will visit the venue over a given period and identifies customer archetypes based on spending behaviour and frequency. 

  • Space programming determines the optimal allocation of F&B space, considering factors such as the front-of-house (FOH) and back-of-house (BOH) split, seating capacity, and spatial flow. 

  • Throughput analysis calculates the expected number of covers per day and revenue, providing insights into ROI and payback periods. 

Advanced data modelling tools and simulations can enhance accuracy and reliability, enabling stakeholders to make confident data-driven decisions. 

4. PRESENTATION OF FINDINGS  

At its core, the presentation research findings should answer the fundamental questions set out in the project’s brief, such as:  

  • What is the right mix of F&B to satisfy customer archetypes (cuisine/ service style)? 

  • How much F&B sqm can the venue and visitation support? 

  • What can be done to make the project commercially viable? 

At TGP, this step involves close coordination with our operations, design, and brand development teams to ensure a cohesive and feasible plan.

Advanced data modelling tools and simulations can enhance accuracy and reliability, enabling stakeholders to make confident data-driven decisions.  

Whether it’s data visualisations, charts, or infographics, these strategies for communication of our strategies can go a long way in aligning everyone’s understanding of what we’re trying to achieve, and how—facilitating collaborative decision making and coordination on a project that can span several months and include dozens of stages.  

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BRAND SELECTION AND THE ROLE OF CHEF-LED CONCEPTS 

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Armed with a clear understanding of whats needed to make the space vibrant, appealing and commercially viable, its then possible to start curating specific brands and concepts that will sit within the food hall ecosystem. 

This step involves understanding market trends, customer preferences, and the competitive landscape to identify diverse and complementary offerings that cater to a wide range of tastes and dining experiences.

We’ve witnessed first hand the power of collaborating with chefs and chef-led concepts when building a winning mix of F&B outlets within a food hall or other clustered F&B space.   

As we’ve seen on many occasions, such as when collaborating with the acclaimed Chef and writer Chef Mokgadi Itsweng when delivering the first African Dining Hall in the UAE, this approach can have far-reaching benefits that include leveraging the chefs' expertise, creativity, and established reputation, as well as adding a layer of genuine differentiation from competitor spaces.      

Doing so also helps to align with evolving consumer preferences as more people seek authentic, high-quality dining experiences curated by renowned culinary professionals.   

SUCCESS STORIES  

Below are some standout projects that showcase the power of building an optimal mix of F&B outlets within a food hall. 

AL MAMLAKA SOCIAL DINING 

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In the heart of Riyadh's iconic Kingdom Centre, Al Mamlaka Social Dining brings together 21 distinct dining experiences, featuring 8 new-to-market brands that showcase a blend of established names and emerging talents.  

Launched in September 2023, after nearly three years of meticulous conceptualising, planning and development, we’ve seen this venue receive a huge amount of positive sentiment, delivering rewarding customer experiences that are sustained by a thriving tenant mix and a cohesive vision across the entire space that drives ongoing footfall and repeat visitation. 

Learn More about Al Mamlaka Social Dining 

ALKEBULAN 

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Alkebulan is a world-first, celebrating African cuisine in a vibrant ecosystem that blends different cuisine and styles from across the continent.  

A space for showcasing diversity and quality of food from a range of exceptional chefs, this dining hall is positioned as a central piece to the new and flourishing community of Expo City Dubai.  

Illustrating the power that F&B hubs like this can have in supporting social cohesion as well as providing local residents and visitors with a socially inclusive and open space, Alkebulan hosts several arts and cultural events, festivals, and other community-led gatherings throughout the year.   

Learn More About Alkebulan 

DEPACHIKA 

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Located in the heart of the world-famous Palm Jumeirah within Nakheel Mall, Depachika set new standards for food halls in the Middle East when it was launched.  

Drawing inspiration from the vibrant model of Japanese basement food halls as well as the classic European market hall concept, this food hall brings together a vibrant world of F&B outlets, carefully mapped to the needs of its audience in a flexible and ever-evolving space.   

Learn More About Depachika  

F&B MASTERPLANNING & TGP’S 360 SERVICES

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TGP’s Masterplanning and 360° services draw from all our areas of specialism and a vast pool of industry experience. We believe this makes us uniquely positioned to deliver a winning mix of F&B combined with an overarching strategy for successful and sustainable F&B environments across all our projects.   

Integrating our design, operations, and brand development expertise allows us to produce cohesive and attractive offerings that meet the needs of customers, clients, and tenants. With the right strategy and execution, we are proud of how all our food halls and dining hall projects have become vibrant and profitable centres of community and commerce. 

 

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