There is considerable debate over just how much ready to eat food should be available at a market like QVM. How do we get the mix right so that our market meets modern consumer expectations whilst ensuring that the category is not over supplied and therefore jeopardising the profitability of current food operators? One thing seems clear - "food is the new shopping."
There is little doubt that food is critical to retail success. With the growth of online shopping, an essential point of difference for bricks'n'mortar destinations is food. And if you get the food attraction right, not only do you get more customers, but they stay longer and spend more. That is great for every retailer. Recent studies show that customers who eat during a shopping centre trip spend on average 27 minutes longer across the shopping centre and spend 18% more in overall transactions.(marketing data from Coniq).
The space devoted to ready to eat food has grown significantly. According to international retail services company JLL, floor space devoted to food and beverage has doubled in the last ten years from 7% to 15%, and is expected to rise to 20% in the next ten years. Consumers are obviously demanding greater choice in ready to eat food. Shopping centres that used to rely on a single food court to meet their customers needs now have multiple food options throughout their centres. We are not a shopping centre but we do serve very similar clientele and the food options of old simply don't meet modern expectations. Gaining the double whammy of more customers who stay longer is a very desirable target.
Obviously you don't want to over populate the category and this is the point of concerns expressed in a Herald Sun article this week. In an article about the CoM's new food truck policy, Trader Representative Jenny Pyke was quoted as saying "It’s definitely unfair that they’re (food trucks) being put in at a lower rent rate than those already at the market”. Council plans involve placing food trucks around the city including on Peel St. adjacent to the market. The point was made in the article that the introduction of more food outlets could jeopardise the livelihoods of current food traders. Cr. Robert Doyle was quoted in a discussion on 3AW "We think these spots will work, in talking to the various traders, but obviously, depending on the footfall, that’s what makes it, or breaks it, and we want to put them where there are people going past".
Getting the ready to eat food mix right at QVM is critical to our development. This is not just about protecting current food traders or whacking in lots of new food. If we get this right, we will all benefit because more customers will come to our market. Once again we are testing the entrepreneurial appetite for traders to adapt to retail change and testing Malcolm McCullough's team's ability to get it right. It would be unfortunate if the CoM were acting independently and harming the process.