Dining out - the new theatre?

Andy P landscape

Contact Andy Piepenstock, Director, Interiors
andy.piepenstock@benoy.com

65% of retail visitors believe the quality of the F&B offer has an impact on the overall shopping experience. Here Andy Piepenstock, Director of our EMEA Interiors team, explores how research into how different generational groups is revealing a whole new attitude to dining out.

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In my role as a Director of Interiors at Benoy, I lead a team obsessed with finding out how people use space. From start to finish, our work is underpinned by a holistic, insight-driven approach that gives us a unique perspective on how people engage with the world around them.
This approach means we can focus on creating unforgettable experiences which are truly intelligence-led, culturally nuanced and people-centric.

For one recent project developing an F&B offer for a large retail client, we spent some time looking at key generational cohorts, from Boomers to Millennials to Gen Zs to the current Generation Alphas, exploring their interests and lifestyle choices. 

Below, you can see some of the key themes which emerged. 

'In a digital world of virtual experiences, food and drink remains a very real social event. As such, there is considerable potential for retailers to create communal food environments where people can meet, interact and share food experiences.'

Understanding how people like to eat out — assessing present and future food models

In our work, we assessed present food models in order to understand their limitations and potential for improvement. We also considered the innovative shifts in food culture that are influencing visitor expectations. 

From this analysis of consumer behaviour, we created a range of future food insights. These insights have helped us identify opportunities to challenge traditional food formats, reinvigorate the F&B experience and satisfy evolving demand. 

As part of this process, we mapped out six key areas to explore:

1.Curation and experience 

2.Ethical food

3.Eating out as an educational experience

4.Community spaces

5.Convenience food

6.Experience by lifestyle


Below, I explore some of the findings for each area in more detail. 

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1. Curation and Experience

In this scenario, interactive and immersive food experiences, powered by the imagination, help to engage and inspire consumers, creating beautiful, fun and memorable food moments. Through multi-sensory products, installations, fixed showcases and galleries, retailers can visually articulate food brands in a more dynamic and accessible way. 

Not dependent on traditional mealtimes or dining conventions, this model caters particularly to the appetites of Gen Z and Y, offering vibrant food hang outs’ and opportunities to share stories on social media. 

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2. Ethical food

Through our research, we’re seeing how customers are increasingly aware of the environmental impact of eating out. For Gen Z in particular, food ethics and sustainability are key issues that will influence their F&B choices. 

Restaurant and hospitality brands that engage and align with these issues will achieve wide consumer appeal. By focusing on provenance, food miles and traceability, and by establishing a visible relationship with local suppliers, they can help customers make sustainable food choices. 

In addition, real’ food environments – accessible, authentic and community-oriented, perhaps with biophilic backdrops – will help communicate passion and personality, resonating with ethical sensibilities. 

'Consumers today want more from their food than mere sustenance. They want to know where it comes from, how it is made and how it affects their health and wellbeing.'

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3. Eating out as an interactive learning experience

Consumers today want more from their food than mere sustenance. They want to know where it comes from, how it is made and how it affects their health and wellbeing. 

By offering hands-on learning opportunities, such as demonstrations, tastings or workshops, F&B outlets can help to promote grass-roots food education. Classes on diet, nutrition, ingredients or cooking skills can be delivered via permanent or pop-up learning spaces. Meanwhile, events held between mealtimes will help to achieve a more balanced flow of visitors.

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'Via ‘social kitchens’, communal dining formats and community markets, retailers can promote the concept of multi-purpose space where people come together to consume and celebrate food.'

4. Food experiences driving community engagement

In a digital world of virtual experiences, food and drink remains a very real social event. As such, there is considerable potential for retailers to create communal food environments where people can meet, interact and share food experiences. 

Via social kitchens’, communal dining formats and community markets, retailers can promote the concept of multi-purpose space where people come together to consume and celebrate food. Such space might also include non-food features such as cinema, street theatre or music. 

5. Food at your convenience

Being time poor shouldn’t mean people have to compromise on quality or experience. In order to attract busy consumers, retailers need to think about pre-bookable dining experiences and grab-and-go food and grocery outlets.

Whether it’s families pre-ordering meals online and dining on arrival, or commuters visiting help yourself’ or pick-your-own’ areas in-store, speed and convenience will increasingly define the modern food experience. Good food on the move will become a popular option, so brands need to think about targeting key pedestrian routes to and from transport connections. 

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6. Dining out as a brand experience

Expectations of how to interact with brands are changing. For Gen Z and Gen Y, both highly aware and connected through social media, the shift from shop by type’ to shop by lifestyle’ is an accelerating trend. For restaurants and retailers, this means creating highly engaging and experiential food environments. 

No longer content with simple over-the-counter transactions, modern consumers want omni-channel experiences and connections. The wraparound food retail’ model can help meet these needs, with food products surrounding or being surrounded by related events, helping to create a memorable and shareable social experience.