Could being part of a new-look food precinct suit your business plan?

Could being part of a new-look food precinct suit your business plan?

Retail – Workplace August 2017

Space Race

The traditional cavernous basement-style food courts that we have become accustomed to may offer reasonable rental rates and good foot traffic numbers, but the often-poor lighting, echoing acoustics and awkward access might be a turn-off for your food retailing business or start-up.

The food and beverage sector has been one of the best performing retail categories in New Zealand in recent years with consumers spending up large on dining options across the hospitality sector with “cheap-and-cheerful” a popular choice.

Within this expanding sector, there’s room for every kind of food operator but finding the right premises can be costly and downright tricky in some parts of the country.

For small operators and family-run businesses with constrained budgets, a communal-style food precinct can be a great way to gain profile, a loyal following and ultimately – profitable traction – in a competitive market.

In Auckland, Christchurch, Rotorua and Palmerston North, for example, dining laneways and artisan precincts are thriving. Here you’ll find standalone operators (as opposed to franchised brands) having a presence in a more intimate dining setting and championing quality and diversity.

It’s a more refined version of street food alleys seen internationally with comfortable surrounds, decent seating options and a convivial atmosphere – and the next step up from a kiosk or food truck operation.

These “little malls of food” give the customers choices, exposing them to new ways of eating and different styles of food and allowing them to sample across the offerings on any given day.

It’s a great way for new business owners to test a concept, suss out the market and fine-tune their service and menus in a supportive and friendly environment without the onerous outgoings that can come with a standalone premises.

The owners of these dining precincts are also mindful of getting the mix right rather than just filling up the available spaces with whoever comes along. So what we are seeing is an eclectic mix of food styles and philosophies rubbing along side-by-side.

Auckland’s K’Rd Food Workshop, in a former nightclub space, has been transformed into a food hub where each of the eateries sells goods they produce themselves. There’s an Argentinian grill, an artisan popcorn maker, a milk-and-cookie operation and an ambient cocktail bar with a small but perfectly-formed menu.

Meantime in Christchurch, Little High Eatery – a new international food emporium – encompasses eight family-run eateries in the central city all within a new mixed-use commercial and residential precinct.

Speaking of new developments, another option to consider is getting in on the ground floor of a new mixed-use project. As New Zealand expands its residential living options with a growing inner city and fringe apartment culture, options are expanding for food operators to be part of a more cosmopolitan way of life.

Often these apartment complexes have a ground floor retail component and therein lies an opportunity for food retailers to double-clip the hospo’ ticket by servicing the office and retail workers by day and the neighbouring apartment dwellers by night.

Increased social connections and unique experiences are currently driving retailing in general –dining options are at the core of this.

So, hopefully, the property options for food-related businesses will continue to innovate and inspire.

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