Earlier, there used to be the 4 pillars for the mall: the anchor stores, beauty, entertainment, and FnB. When the mall thought we had got the formula right and started experiencing footfall, the pandemic hit, and it all changed.
Now, retail and leisure spaces are seeing an unprecedented change. There is a big change in the perception of the consumers. There has been a spurt in the use of technology and dark kitchens are mushrooming like never before. Grocery used to be major revenue garner for the malls, however, consumers started ordering it online. The entire dynamics of the industry have changed.
“After the first lockdown, everyone was scared. They were focusing more on sanitization and following the measures. But after the second lockdown, the recovery was good, almost 80-90 percent for all the high-street brands. Though FnB was performing well online, Zomato is one such example. So things are moving well, but at the same time, you need to see how you are categorizing the shopping malls. Food has become a fashion, people put pictures of their food on Instagram, earlier they used to order on special occasions, but now it is an affair 2-3 times a week,” states Deepak Zutshi, Center Head & VP, Select CITYWALK.
“Shopping malls have large food courts, and they don’t allow Zomato and Swiggy to enter. When the first pandemic hit us, the first learning was how to support the FnB retailers. We created separate entry and exit and allowed the likes of Zomato to enter the premises to pick up the meal. On the other hand, the neighborhood center is primarily driven by food, whether it is walk-in or takeaway, or delivery. Again we created separate service routes ensuring proper social distancing. Earlier, shopping malls were typically zoned to have fashion, accessories, and beauty on the ground floor, but now we have food QSRs on the ground floor as well to attract more footfall. Thanks to cloud kitchens and new formats, we have more concepts and fusion tech to explore. In high-street format, we have a dedicated zone for dark kitchens. We recently launched a new Moti Mahal in our center called 3 Roads, where we did a combination of cloud kitchen, takeaway, and a small outdoor seating area. It is working well. So, these are some changes, and we all are learning,” adds Nandani Taneja, VP, Reach Group
Now, the customers are more interested to know where the food is coming from; is it safe? Is it hygienic? One key learning from the pandemic is that brands are more focused on providing hygienic food.
Fastest Growing Segment
There are various FnB segments in shopping malls like a coffee shop, casual dining, and all-day dining.
“Segment-wise, fast-casual has picked up. Although there is a defined line for every restaurant segment, due to the pandemic, some people are reluctant to go for the experience, but still, people are coming back,” says Chef Manish Sharma, General Manager, Operations & Projects, Jubilant Food Works.
“There is more from the mall side; most of the malls in the country are looking for casual dining. Fine dining and clubs don’t work because malls shut down by 10:00 pm or 11:00 pm. So for any shopping mall, the best combination would be cafes and casual dining,” adds Zutshi.
Apart from this, the drive-in and QSR segment has also seen a significant surge in demand.
“Drive-in or drive-through is the need of the hour. When the first wave hit, the same chain we have tied with us had restaurants and cafes. We thought, let’s go back to the growing stage and create a drive-through. The earlier drive-through was created with whatever space was left, but we wanted to do it in a proper manner. We did have to go back to the structure, entire design. It has performed better in the last one-and-a-half years. It is convenient and has easy access. We are happy to announce that in a few months we’ll be launching that at 3 Roads also,” says Taneja.
Allocating the Right Space
With new laws coming in, if you are filing the drawing of any shopping mall, you have to mention whether it is FnB or retail. And you cannot change apparel or fashion to FnB without the permission of Government authority.
“I think about 35-40 percent area is dedicated to FnB today in open area centers. We have to make provisions accordingly because they need to have their service corridor, service lift, routing of raw materials, etc. So, we pre-created certain areas about 35-40 percent of shopping centers’ spread across all levels. Large shopping malls might need more,” states Taneja.
“FECs have been struggling, and for one year. They were most hit due to the pandemic. So, at any given point of time, 15-20 percent should go to entertainment in the coming times,” adds Zutshi.