'We live in a wonderful foodie world right now'


Jonathan Doughty has moved to ECE Projektmanagement as the company's new Global Head of Foodservice. In his new role, he will 'bring to life' new food and drink spaces.


Why did you decide to move from a pure advisory role (JLL) to actually implementing new food concepts (ECE)?
I wanted to do projects again from scratch and finish them. In my old business, Coverpoint, we used to be more involved in the delivery of the projects. At JLL we were more strategic and advisory, so we worked at the beginning and then, maybe, if we were lucky, an update or two. We didn’t really get our hands dirty.

At ECE I can create the idea with the team, help design, build, lease, operate and always improve it. It’s like bringing up children, something I am just getting used to in my personal life too! Early in my career I did concept development and product development work, which I enjoyed a lot. This is the same, but this time I am surrounded at ECE by a fantastic group of professionals who can bring to life new foodservice spaces.

What are your priorities at ECE?
First, to successfully lease MyZeil, the ground breaking ‘Foodtopia’ project in Frankfurt. No project has been done like this before in Germany and it is going to change the perceptions and reality of the foodservice market and give guests something really special.

It has surprised me how much work has had to go into getting people to understand what we are doing here, and why it is so different, but key market players now ‘get it’ and we are announcing our line up soon. Once that is done, it is a major priority to broaden the operator base for ECE in Germany and bring some of the successful operators from other countries. I recently visited Istanbul to talk to a conference of operators and meet new contacts.

The economic fundamentals in Germany are amazing and solid, so we are targeting a number of the great brands for
growth with us. We have a support package to offer them to help them overcome any fears of market entry into Germany - a well-regulated country, with a lot of rules.

What F&B and leisure offerings do European shopping centres lack?
The proper integration of retail, leisure and foodservice. These three components, like ingredients, need to be mixed carefully and that isn’t easy. Few purpose built projects properly integrate these things. There are a lot of extensions and redevelopments, so we need to make better ‘places for people’, then attract a broader base of operators in Europe.

This is a particular issue in Germany, which for some reason has been largely left alone by international operators in their expansion. The industry needs to work hard as ‘Appetite Attractors’, making places that have great foodservice real estate, provide strong opportunities for profit and give guests a much better experience.

Emotion, Entertainment and Excitement – I talk about the three “E’s all the time, but they are so important. We can’t
do ‘functional’ anymore and fortunately, the business agrees. Even before I arrived ECE, has delivered stunning food projects in Verona and Hamburg – we are already well on the journey.

What makes Foodtopia (at ECE’s MyZeil) ‘more than just a food court’?
It is important to realise it isn’t a food court at all. It never will be. The space deserves something much better. We are creating a Town Square on the fourth floor of a shopping centre, with a range of cafes, bars and restaurants, a fantastic cinema and a really special place to be, any time of the day or night. It could not be further away from a food court.

Part of the problem we have had on the project is that people keep calling it a food court. When it opens this will stop and people will remember the moment that ‘Foodtopia’ was born! If there are any operators that haven’t looked at it, because they think it is a food court, you are in for a big surprise.

Is Foodtopia a taste of things to come at ECE’s shopping centres?
Foodtopia is unique and it’s unlikely that many shopping centres will have the necessary factors to be able to do what we are going to do there. However, there are elements that can be added into other projects. We never stop learning. It shows that ECE is growing in confidence about food and drink, an expanding competence in our business, (which was already good at food) and a desire to do things differently in the pursuit of guest delight.

What do you dislike most about shopping centre food courts?
The chronic lack of experience, service or entertainment. To be fair, they were born out of the need to serve a lot of people cheaply and fast and so the environment was never going to be that great. I have been impressed by what ECE have managed to do in several of their food courts recently. They have great design, interesting operators and good service elements into the projects.

It is well known that I am not a fan of food courts, but that was more to do with the fact that I predicted the ‘service and experience age’ in our industry, where environment and good time stand for so much. Everybody now does good food, or ‘good enough’ food. We live in an “experience world” and it is hard to inject that into a food court experience.

What is your favourite shopping centre concept in Europe and why?
That’s a great question. I don’t have one favourite, although MOOD in Stockholm works really well for me, as does Mall of Scandinavia. It is Unibail Rodamco, who I worked closely with on that development and it still holds a special place in my heart. The attention to detail and base planning we put into the project has delivered something amazing.

In reality, my favourite shopping places are the arcades and markets in every city that I go to. Mostly populated by operators, not brands, purveyors, not just shops, they tantalise my senses and keep me coming back for more. I also love the great department stores that have flourished with food, offering whole floors of great retail food and food experiences. We live in a wonderful ‘foodie”’ world right now.

But, despite everything I’ve said, we need to be careful. Food is not the final answer to all of retails’ major problems and I do think retail needs to step up and help contribute to the guest experience as well. After all, they can’t always have their cake and eat it!