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EXPO REAL focus topic of the first day of the trade fair: Grand Plaza

Gastronomy as the saviour for shopping centers in times of digitalization?

Between digitalization and individualization: What will the shopping centers of tomorrow look like? Which trade concepts will fill them with life? What’s the advantage of offline in contrast to online? An increasing number of shopping centers and retailers count on gastronomy as saviour in the era of digitalization. What makes a successful food strategy? On which concepts will the market count on? Mainly two panels at the Grand Plaza, the marketplace for trading at the EXPO REAL, were dealing with said questions: “Future Shopping“ and “Bon Appetit: Advantage Food“. We’re trying to provide an overview and outlook.


This year again, Jörg Nowicki of “Textilwirtschaft“ confidently moderates the discussants and their theories on the future of trading bilingually. In front of a large audience: Again, there are not enough of the popular white stools to fit all interested listeners.

The first day of the trade fair kicked off with a survey. Dr. Joachim Will presented the results of the “Shopping Center Performance Report 2017“, conducted by the market research institute Ecostra. For the first time ever, people were this year asked to name the best German “Food court”. Winner is the “Centro” in Oberhausen. But probably even more important will the following result be: 80% of the survey participants consider the food offer in general as significant or very significant for a shopping center.

The speakers of the second day of the trade fair could only agree – not very surprising, bearing in mind that their panel had already been named accordingly: “Advantage Food“. And indeed, the gastronomic range is for sure an advantage for many shopping centers or better “the best weapon in the hands of their operators”, as moderator Nowicki sharpened it. That’s the reason why people like Jonathan Doughty (ECE) can make it from a cook and host to the “Global Head of Foodservice” since a couple of years. “I had to turn 55 to achieve that – and have been working in the gastronomic sector since I’m 13”, the Brit says with his familiar disarming openness. One reason for the new popularity of food & drinks: “You can’t digitalize it”, as to Rüdiger Pleus (consultant). Moreover: “It represents 100% of emotion”.

 “Food is not a magic pill“

Daniel Cerqueira da Rocha (Unibail-Rodamco Group) brought his audience back down to reality as they wanted to deduce a recipe for success way too easy for their trade properties: “Food is not a magic pill”. The status of food in society is subject to rapid changes, especially in Germany: Herein he foresees a trend from an anxious to an amusement-seeking customer – thanks to the generation of the “millennials” who have travelled far, putting emphasis on quality instead of quantity and leveraging new gastronomic trends such as “Fast Casual”. No wonder that the “Copy & Paste” concepts of many food court operators no longer worked for that target group, as to Cerqueira da Rocha.

Jonathan Doughty as well chose the hardly refutable “offline argument“ as opener to his lecture: “We still can’t eat online”. Food is omnipresent, competition among food providers is innumerable: „If you were passing two restaurants on your way to work, it’s turned 23 by now“ – that means, providers will have to stand out and establish themselves offering an appealing concept.

But what is appealing? According to Doughty rather not what German malls still offer. The quality of food in malls often lags drastically behind the quality of the other goods. His recipe to success to improve on that situation? “The 3 E’s: excitement, entertainment, and emotion”. As to him, all three of said can be encountered in the fastfood restaurants of McDonald’s since decades.

“Gastronomy must be moved out of the 5th floor and down to the ground floor“

Fabian Rieden (SIGNA Food & Restaurant) obviously couldn’t withstand and agreed with his pre-speakers, indicating the digital disruption by pouring it humorously into his recommendation: Uber yourself before you get Kodak’d“. Meaning: Stay tuned if you want to remain a successful player in tomorrow’s gastronomy. According to him, it would also be necessary to conduct a spatial reconsideration, especially in shopping centers and malls: “Gastronomy must be moved out of the 5th floor and down to the ground floor – in combination with matching food retail offers”.

And what exactly renders the topic of food – besides that it is irrevocably “offline” – so appealing?, that’s what the moderator wants to know in the end. As to Doughty it is the “social stickiness“ that comes along with it: “To me, there’s nothing more appealing than a common meal with my wife and my little son”. Again, Nowicki digs deeper: And why is that topic booming at the moment – and not ten or 20 years ago? Daniel Cerqueira da Rocha suggests: “Food represents simplicity in an increasingly more complicated world“. All discussants agreed upon one fact, however: The food trend has finally arrived at the world of shopping centers, that’s not an ephemeral phenomenon: “We will not go back to normal and have shops again.“


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