On a weekend afternoon, you can shop comfortably at Inorbit, a mall in western suburban Mumbai. But if you want to eat at any of the restaurants, the waiting period could be as long as three hours. In the common food court area, customers may have to stand guard over a table to make sure they get it next.
Inorbit Malls (India) Pvt. Ltd plans to nearly double the size of food courts in the next few malls it is making, from the current 6% of mall space. And Inorbit is not an exception. Almost all mall developers are giving food courts prime attention as they typically get more visitors there than into any single store in the mall.
According to an estimate by real estate consulting company, Jones Lang LeSalle Meghraj, 320 or so new malls are coming up across India by 2010 and food courts are emerging as one of the anchor tenants. In retail industry parlance, anchor tenants are those stores that have the largest space, visitors and revenues in the mall.
As many as 80% visitors to a mall may visit a food court compared with about 65% who visit a hypermarket and 50- 55% who visit a department store, according to estimates by the Retailers Association of India, a retail industry body.
Kshitij Investment Advisory Co. Ltd, which is developing 11 malls across tier-II cities, has set up the first food and beverage division for a mall developer to strengthen its food courts. DLF Retail Developers Ltd, the retail arm of Delhi property developer DLF Ltd, has an international food and beverage company on board to consult on creating better quality food courts.
“Food courts are one of the largest syndicated spaces that a mall developer has to manage and getting it right is important for them,” says Ashish Kapur, managing director of Moods Hospitality Pvt. Ltd, which runs a Chinese restaurant chain called Yo China at several malls.
Mall developers were earlier selling space to stores but now lease it out, run the food courts and promote them. All these could drive visitors to stores and increase mall revenues. “Food courts can increase the time people spend at the mall and drive business to other stores in the mall,” says Girish Pande, chief operating officer of E-City Property Management Services, which manages seven malls across India.
Kshitij intends to keep its malls, the first of which will open in March, lit up till midnight so that visitors feel comfortable coming for dinner although stores in the mall will be closed by then. Dhiren Kanwar, who is a chef and now heads Kshitij’s food and beverage division, is also scouting for small restaurants that they can develop as chains in their malls. Once he chooses a stand alone restaurant that they will help expand, Kanwar will redesign the concept to fit a mall environment and train new staff, apart from providing space. DLF Retail has also been speaking to its restaurateurs to give them more space.