It’s all about the food and an effective food and beverage program assures success.

ByJames H. Little, FFCSI
Principal
Los Angeles Office

As foodservice consultants, of course we think it’s all about the food.  But stop and think and you’ll agree that for the people who live and work in the buildings we design, food and beverage is an important, and an emotional, factor.  And for the building owners and operators, food and beverage is an ever-growing revenue source. In fact, the following is one of the first things that pops up on the Seoul, Korea’s COEX Mall’s web site promoting its 64 food tenants:

Full of things to Eat and Enjoy – COEX Mall

Over the years, we’ve learned that success in the food and beverage business is dependent on a solid and effective program.  We have also learned, often the hard way, that the entire planning team must be involved early in the process of developing that program so that it incorporates:

  • The Passion of each and every team member for true creativity
  • The Experience of all for reality, and
  • The Forthrightness to marry the reality with the creativity, while ensuring all parties are heard and agree

The end result is a well researched, well thought-out, and well-documented food and beverage program, which becomes the guidebook for the rest of the design, development and leasing process.

The results can be remarkable such as at Kuala Lumpur City Centre, most commonly known as the twin towers made famous by Sean Connery, where the food operations prospered despite opening at the start of the Asian financial crisis. This was followed a couple of years later by COEX in Seoul, where the rents doubled from those of the original mall. In both cases, the clients agreed that there needed to be a thorough market and demand analysis forming the basis of a leasing program setting out the number, size and ambiance of food and beverage units along with menu and service styles to assure a complementary, not overly competitive, mix of units. This all occurred in emerging markets, undergoing substantial economic growth, with the resulting cultural changes, at a time when consulting services of this nature were really unknown and not trusted by most local firms in those cultures.

Our process was developed and honed over years and really reflects our own passion.  Our teams took time to become acclimated to the market – walking the streets, discussing business, menus and guest preferences with restaurant hosts and managers, testing the hawker stalls, reviewing the hotels and the early mall developments to see firsthand what people were buying and spending. In addition we interviewed the Tourist bureaus, developers, and local people we knew. All this information was interpreted using our operating, consulting and development experience and formed the basis for the demand analysis interpretations.  A food and beverage program evolved and financial modeling was done to confirm the mix had the bases for success. 

Jakarta, Bangkok, Beijing, Shanghai and Taiwan have all seen major successes due to the programs developed by our foodservice consultant teams charged with the responsibility to capture the passions of owner, operator, designers and chef and to mold them into a cohesive result based on their experience and knowledge. While our focus in this article has been on the developing markets in Southeast Asia, newly emerging markets today in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, North Africa and South America will also benefit from this approach to food and beverage planning, design, and development. Even North American and European redevelopments need this discipline as well to optimize their success.  Additionally, the same programming activities apply, and are critical, in all sectors of the foodservice industry, from corporate dining to stadiums and arenas, universities and virtually everywhere people break bread.

So kudos to the clients, architects and developers who have sought the expertise of specialty program consultants to assist them in getting the data they need to make the decisions that, in turn, create success for their projects.  Time and again, the results have proven the value of the effort spent and the processes developed.  And for all of us, success isn’t measured as the project construction is closed out, but rather in providing the solid base of operating financial success for the owner/operator and great satisfaction for the customer.