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Restaurants Will Continue To Drive Traffic To Retail Centers In 2017. Here Are 5 Things You Should Know.

Colliers International National Director of Retail Services Anjee Solanki at MAPIC 2015

As consumers grow increasingly fond of eating out, landlords are going after unique concepts in hopes of driving traffic to their centers. 

In 2017, restaurants will continue to evolve as a growing focal point of retail centers, even in the midst of e-commerce competition—that's according to Colliers International's retail services spotlight report released this month. 

"It's not new that food [tenants] are anchoring projects, it's more how they're evolving and becoming much more of a stronger component and quite diverse," Colliers national director of retail services Anjee Solanki (pictured) told Bisnow

Below are five things we can expect to see from "food powered" retail in 2017.

1. It's Not Just A Meal, It's A Social Occasion


Most consumers are driven by convenience today; that's why physical retailers have lost so much traffic to online competitors. The great thing to note about food and beverage tenants is they provide a social experience that can't be found online. You can take a look at social media today and see how America has become a culture of foodies who like to wine and dine at unique and community-oriented locations. Because of this trend, food and beverage tenants are expected to make up 25% to 30% of future shopping centers, according to Colliers VP of Phoenix Daniel Ortega. The National Retail Federation projects restaurant sales will see their seventh year of growth, up to $783B. 

2. A Culinary Revolution


It's important that owners stay on top of the constant evolution of restaurant trends. What's hot today may not be hot tomorrow. One trend that has remained is the shift in favor of fast-casual concepts. Unlike quick service restaurants like McDonald's or Burger King, fast-causal restaurants are appealing to customers through their health-conscious options and locally sourced ingredients. The combination of wellness, speed and health-oriented food continues to thrive, and Colliers says for operators looking to food and beverage tenants to boost their center, it's important to keep present and future foodie trends in mind.

3. Cross-Shopping Design


Developers today are taking into account that the majority of shoppers' visits—particularly in urban markets—revolve around a meal. This is growing increasingly evident in the cross-shopping and parking design of centers, Colliers reports. The goal is to grab shoppers' attention from the parking lot all the way to the their final destination to encourage cross-shopping. Visitors may not have intended to stop into the small apparel boutique store on their way to dinner, but the center should be designed in such as way that the other shops appeal to them.

This could be as simple as creating interesting window displays or making sure shops are open during the evening when patrons are finishing up dinner. Some projects are also coupling restaurants with office space and luxury multifamily housing, creating urban mixed-use developments that draw Millennials like a magnet to live, work and play. 

Developers are revamping shopping center parking lots as well, breaking free from the normal parking lot layout that would encircle the shops, creating an island of sorts. In regional centers, some developers are creating mixed-use developments that call for walkability. A lot of urban developments have moved parking underground and to garage decks to accommodate dense populations.

4. Smart Centers


Technology is a great tool, if used appropriately, to add value to a project. Colliers reports that technology is being used for urban design and profitability purposes. Cameras, sensors and affinity tags are used in projects to track customer engagement within a center, noting where consumers park, walk, eat and how long they remain in certain locations. Landlords are also providing this data to tenants to help them improve store profitability. Colliers expects operators' use of the tech to grow over time, particularly by small owners and operators. 

5. Specialty Eateries and Brand Alignment


All in all, Colliers says to expect more original, non-chain high-quality restaurants to pop up at centers come 2017. This may be a small boutique, or large locations that offer food halls with a variety of small vendors and restaurants. 

"You're seeing specialization being further developed even on the beverage side as well, such as very artisanal beer in smaller formats," Anjee told us. "The other thing to remember is that a lot of these specialized concepts are going to look at brand alignment as well. They may not go into any project, they may be looking at a project more street retail or something more urban versus traditional."