When it comes to retail innovation, restaurants are where it’s at, panelists said at an SCTLive event called “Tomorrow’s top retailers” at The Grove, in Los Angeles, on Tuesday. “The food category has been at the forefront,” said Frederick Collings, CRX, CSM, CLS, senior vice president of leasing for Irvine, Calif.–based Irvine Co. More new concepts are coming out of the food category than any other, due in part to many consumers’ declining interest in cooking at home, he said. “Dining out offers people a chance to see and be seen that can’t be found online.”
Caruso Affiliated Holdings’ is also adding innovative restaurants to its properties, said Jackie Levy, the firm’s executive vice president of operations. “Our job is to create environments that people come back to, and restaurants play a big part in that.” The Nordstrom store at The Grove recently added a restaurant to keep customers lingering longer, he said.
Many new chains are applying Chipotle’s successful “quick-serve cafeteria” model to different kinds of food, Collings said. These include Urban Plates, Tender Greens, lemonade and others. Chipotle has introduced a “make your own pizza” feature lately that has been adopted by a series of fast-growing chains such as Pieology and Blaze Pizza, he added.
Such chains capitalize on consumers’ desire for convenience. “Casual and value are the keys to success in food right now,” said Jeffrey Moore, senior managing director for CBRE. Other successful concepts, such as Fig & Olive and Javier’s are also growing by serving these needs, Moore said.
Food trucks should be a source of inspiration for landlords seeing to energize their properties, said Monica Corcoran Harel, a Los Angeles–based fashion writer and creative consultant who tracks consumer trends. “If you can get a great meal from a food truck, then why not a food court?” she said. Collings said his firm has signed a lease with popular L.A. food truck operator The Lime Truck to open its first brick-and-mortar unit. “The truck can’t be within so many feet of the store, and they pay percentage rent on the truck’s sales,” he added.
International food concepts are also headed to the states. Collings said Dubai-based PappaRoti recently signed a lease to test the popularity of its fare with L.A.’s large Persian community.
Of course, placing a bet on a new dining concept is risky, panelists agreed. “A lot of it is franchisees,” Collings said. “You have to take a risk and hope that it works.”