successful food court, The Lab/Ideas

As you enter the Food Society Paris, near Montparnasse station in Paris, the smell of food mixes with the boisterous customers. Welcome to one of the last food courts in the capital, opened last month and offering, in 3,500 square meters of space, 15 restaurants and a cocktail bar, in addition to a central bar. In the Les Ateliers Gaité shopping centre, recently renovated, the offer is diverse, with a pizza stand, another for pancakes and pancakes, a Moroccan sandwich restaurant or even a Breton stand with oysters and croque monsieur with haddock.

Born in the United States in the 1970s, the concept of a food court has spread throughout France. Now there are nearly 70 of them, including in smaller towns, such as Hérouville-Saint-Clair (Calvados), near Caen, where Ô Happy Days recently opened. The idea: bringing together several restaurants of different styles in the same space so that every customer finds his account. There’s no need to impose your culinary preferences on your group of friends, each ordering their dish at the restaurant of their choice before enjoying it at the same table.

Mutualize costs

“In 10 years, the number of food courts has tripled in France. It’s an interesting concept for both restaurateurs and restaurateurs alike,” said Sacha Abergel, founder and CEO of catering consultancy Foodies Consulting. “By settling in the food court, restaurant owners can collect costs (rent, cleaning), save on servers, and attract more people,” he concludes.

For Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, owners of Ateliers Gaité, the aim was to offer a “festive destination” in a residential area undergoing transformation, located a few hundred meters from the Montparnasse tower, where more than 5,000 people work every day. Without hiding it, the lessor hopes to attract more customers to the shopping center.

This is also what motivated the opening in Lille, in 2021, of the first food court called “Kitchen Market” which brings together 18 brands positioned around bars, in the Tanneurs shopping center, in the pedestrian district of the city centre. For Société des Grands Magasins (SGM), the Lyon real estate company that has purchased this declining gallery, it is a matter of reviving activity with offers of catering – and soon free time – to compete with Euralille, Lille’s massive commercial hub. .

The World Cup effect

“The concept is working very well, it was very successful at the end of the year with the Football World Cup”, said François Copin, director of Kitchen Market, admitting lower attendance earlier in the week and in the evening, assured François Copin. but without, to reveal the numbers. However, according to him, the four corners were empty because the catering concept was not “mature”.

SGM is already planning to open a second food court, in Tourcoing, in another shopping center that was recently taken over by the property company. It will be smaller, with fewer than ten restaurants, but this should allow, as in Lille, to increase the galleries.

High class

At launch, food courts moved upscale, with landlords looking to attract “premium” brands instead of the fast food restaurants typical of shopping malls. Star chefs, such as Mory Sacko in Paris, have no longer hesitated to settle in these places alongside French burger chains Big Fernand and Comptoir Coreen, to name but a few.

“The brands selected have a significant reputation, especially on social networks, and generate a buzz effect when there is a new opening”, analyzes Sacha Abergel. Therefore, the price is higher but according to the people who can afford it considering the district chosen.

The quality and origin of the product often come to the fore. This is the case at La Felicita, the food court run by restaurant group Big Mamma, located in the 13th arrondissement of Paris, inside Station F (Xavier Niel’s start-up incubator). With the majority of products coming directly from Italy, this place is always full every weekend from April to October with more than 3,000 customers in the evening. Even in winter, Parisians flock to this left bank must-have, with themed nights (karaoke, Valentine’s Day, roller disco nights, etc.).

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