F&B takes centre stage at Mapic Italy


Food and beverage (F&B) is not just an essential component of shopping centres, but could well safeguard their future, delegates heard at the second edition of the Mapic Italy fair in Milan.


Jonathan Doughty, JLL's EMEA head of food service, said that the latest initiatives had transformed modern food and beverage operations in shopping centres from 'places to eat' to 'places to fall in love with'.

'People wanted great places to eat in shopping centres, but they didn’t exist,’ he said. ‘Now developers and shopping centre owners are taking a whole new approach in a crucial evolution for the industry.'

Food & Beverage summit
The first-ever edition of Mapic Italy, held in May last year at the Superstudio Più venue, attracted 1,400 delegates from over 35 countries to discuss retail real estate over two days of presentations and events.

This year's edition has aimed for greater structure by designating day one as a Food & Beverage summit, welcoming speakers as diverse as Umberto Montano, president of Mercato Centrale, a franchise which has introduced vastly successful food-halls to the cities of Rome and Florence, as well as Michelin-starred super chef Heinz Beck, who has reigned supreme on Rome's restaurant scene for many decades.

At the afternoon panel moderated by JLL's Doughty, leading executives from international shopping centre giants Westfield, Unibail Rodamco, and ECE Projektmanagement also had the chance to weigh in on the importance of F&B in malls.

More than just food
Klaus Striebich, managing direction leasing ECE Projektmanagement, used to work for a food retailer before moving into the world of real estate development and asset management, he said, and still sought to look at the issue from both sides. 'We can't say we're just focusing on food now, we need to bring all the different elements together in a shopping centre,’ he commented. 'At an industry level, we’re still learning how to do that.'

'Food operators fear when they first start talking to shopping centre developers that their concepts are going to lose all their personality and originality once they're closed in a shopping centre. As shopping centre developers and operators, we need to show F&B operators that we can make their concepts sing, and probably be more hands-off when we welcome them into our centres,’ said Rachel Belam, senior food leasing manager, Westfield Europe.

'More diverse concepts, such as those offered by street food, will be a key aspect of this sector’s evolution,' suggested Simon Wilcock of Fawaz Alhokair Group.

'Do we have too much food in shopping centres?' Doughty asked Morgane Scoarnec, group head of leasing new projects at Unibail-Rodamco. 'I would say no,' Scoarnec said. 'We're responding to demand, and the data – particularly footfall and dwell time – tells a compelling story.'