F&B + Technology: True game changers for successful growth

Nov 7, 2023

F&B + Technology/Digitalization + Partnership: True game changers for successful growth

PROPTECH COLUMN BY Susan Hagerty Bonsak

Originally published in Across Magazine

Food & Beverage is an important category for shopping centers, increasing dwell time, spend and driving overall sales. Eating and drinking is something we all do everyday, so F&B in combination with the right digital tools can present interesting opportunities for shopping centers.  To illustrate this, customers who eat while at a shopping center increase dwell time on average by 27 minutes and spend 18 % more. I recently read that even sitting down for a cup of coffee can result in an increase in sales of over 15%!  In addition, a positive and good experience in F&B drives loyalty and recommendations to others.

Since early 2000, to counteract the impact of online shopping, centers have been increasing the GLA devoted to F&B.  According to a JLL study in 2015, food service across European shopping centers accounted for 15% of the average center’s  leasable area.  A forecast from the same study suggested that by 2025 that number would rise to 20%, but already today,  many centers in Europe have reached or even exceeded that forecast. Consumers changing preferences for “experiences” over “things” has contributed to the increased demand for a greater variety and higher quality of the F&B offering.  This is unlikely to change anytime in the near future, according to a study by ICSC - “The main drivers behind the shift to foodservice in retail in general, and shopping centers in particular, are unlikely to diminish in the next decade”.

Having so many choices is great for consumers but F&B is a highly competitive category with slim margins that can create challenges. Technology and digitalization can be a game changer for shopping centers  looking to support  their F&B tenants. The right strategy supported by the right tools can make an impact in the following areas: 

  • Broadening the audience
  • Increasing outreach channels
  • Increase simplicity and convenience
  • Keeping F&B tenants top-of-mind with catchment area consumers
  • Improving customer experience
  • Increasing loyalty and dwell time 

No doubt technology will continue to play a major role inside food service, for example, to improve ordering and payment processes and increase general operational efficiencies. But landlords can prove to be powerful partners for F&B tenants multiplying exponentially the positive impact of technology to increase customer engagement and create a robust dining “community” through the use of  digital tools such as  center websites, customer data platforms, loyalty programs and mobile apps, to name just a few of the many possibilities. 

A strong digital foundation provides vital support to all F&B tenants, whether locally-owned or national franchisees, or whether a coffee shop or a fine dining restaurant. Initial investments can pay off with low-cost, high-impact F&B partnerships and tenant support. 

Here are some of our favorites to support F&B:

  1. Add a dining guide or attractive restaurant pages with integrations to OpenTable and links to menus and reviews.
  2. Loyalty Clubs can be a great way to support tenants. Consider exclusive “members only” tasting events and discounts to loyalty club members.
  3. Make it easy for F&B tenants to provide event and promotional content through a tenant communication app that can be used for social media, email, and other center communication channels. 
  4. Use an online game or scavenger hunt a shopping center app to encourage shoppers to try a “taste” from every restaurant 
  5. Create a dedicated “Foodie” program with frequent daily meal updates to dedicated profiles in the shopper database.
  6. Share insights and reporting with F&B tenants so they can get to know the center customers better.
  7. Use preference and behavioral data to target dining related invites and activities such as monthly dining events, restaurant openings and happy hours. 

Technology, digitalization and true partnerships are the key ingredients for creating a lasting impact which can be a game changer. For us in Placewise it’s encouraging to see how our clients are able to support their F&B tenants using our platform The Marketplace Performance Cloud (MPC). Together with them we are very committed to continuing developing relevant technology that creates a win for everyone: F&B Tenants, landlords/owners, and the ever-important consumer.