Dining: Food outlets are popular
Published January 21, 2023, 1:12 pm
When you enter Food Society Paris, near Montparnasse station in Paris, the smell of food mixes with the din of customers. Welcome to one of the last food courts in the capital, inaugurated last month and which offers, in a space of 3,500 m2, 15 restaurants as well as a cocktail bar, in addition to the central bar. In the newly renovated Les Ateliers Gaité shopping centre, the offer is heterogeneous, with a pizza kiosk, another for crêpes and crêpes, a Moroccan sandwich shop or even a Breton stall with oysters and Croque-monsieur with haddock.
Born in the United States in the 1970s, the concept of the food court has spread throughout France. There are now almost 70, even in small towns, such as Hérouville-Saint-Clair (Calvados), near Caen, where Ô Happy Days has just opened. The idea: to bring together several restaurants of different styles in the same space so that every customer finds her account. No need to impose your culinary preferences on your group of friends, everyone orders their dish at the restaurant of their choice before enjoying it at the same table.
Borrow the costs
“In 10 years, the number of food courts has tripled in France. It is an attractive concept for both the landlord and the restaurateur,” says Sacha Abergel, founder and CEO of the food consultancy Foodies Consulting. “By setting up in a food court, a restaurant owner can pool costs (rent, cleaning), save servers, and attract more people,” she sums up.
For Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, owner 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 landlord also hopes to attract more customers to the mall.
This is also what motivated the opening in Lille, in 2021, of a first food court called “Kitchen Market” which brings together 18 brands distributed around a bar, in the Tanneurs shopping center, in the downtown pedestrian district. For the Société des Grands Magasins (SGM), the Lyon real estate company which had bought this gallery in decline, it was a question of relaunching the business with a catering offer – and soon leisure – to compete with Euralille, the large commercial center of Lille.
World Cup effect
“The concept works very well, it was particularly successful at the end of the year with the World Cup”, assures François Copin, director of Kitchen Market, who however acknowledges a lower turnout at the beginning of the week and in the evening, without however revealing any figures. However, four corners are vacant, due, according to him, to restaurant concepts that are not “mature” enough.
SGM is already planning to open a second food court, in Tourcoing, in another shopping center recently taken over by the real estate company. This will be smaller, with fewer than ten restaurants, but this should allow, as in Lille, to give the gallery a boost.
As food courts were implemented, they moved upwards, with owners wanting to attract “premium” brands rather than the fast food usually found in malls. Starred chefs, such as Mory Sacko in Paris, no longer hesitate to establish themselves in these establishments alongside the French burger chain Big Fernand and Comptoir Coreen, to name a few.
“The selected brands have a significant reputation, especially on social networks, and generate a buzz effect when there is a new opening”, analyzes Sacha Abergel. The prices are therefore higher but correspond to an audience that can afford it given the chosen neighborhoods.
The quality and origin of the products are often mentioned. This is the case of La Felicita, the food court managed by the Big Mamma restaurant group, located in the 13th arrondissement of Paris, inside Station F (Xavier Niel’s start-up incubator). With most of the produce sourced directly from Italy, the venue is regularly packed every weekend from April to October with over 3,000 customers in the evening. Even in winter, Parisians flock to this establishment which has become a must on the Left Bank, with theme nights (karaoke, Valentine’s Day, roller disco night, etc.).