Have you ever gone out shopping and not stopped to grab a bite? The chances are slim right? Well, we usually eat & shop or shop & eat; the businesses of food and shopping have complemented each other for centuries. The phenomena are more prominent today, with both becoming important social hotspots for the millennials. F&B and retail sectors have evolved in tandem while developing a strong symbiotic bond in this process. Both these sectors have transformed with similarities, mutually dependent of each other and here are some common ties that are defining the success in the business of food service and retail in India.
Experiential Yet Empathic
Consumer behaviour has changed drastically in the areas of retail and dining, where we don't just head out shopping with a list in mind or to a restaurant that whips up a favourite dish. We not only love browsing for new products at the stores but want to tantalise our taste buds with different cuisines. And along with exploration, we are increasingly looking out for a great experience at these spaces, that are also sensitive to our needs. A holistic experience is a key part of the trade today. Consumers are not looking for stereotypical or mechanical experiences at retail & fine dining, but places that have a unique personality and can empathise with the needs of the guests walking in.
Cinnamon adapted a building, dated 1893, of British colonial era in Bengaluru, where the restored structure houses designer labels including Arttdinox designed by FRDC. Space also has an all-day cafe, bringing the best of shopping, food and events at one place.
In the developed markets, restaurants, lounges and bars, are turning into high profile environments where “everything is for sale”. Located inside the Roman and Williams Guild in Soho, La Mercerie celebrates the thoughtful delight of everyday French cooking. Here you can eat and buy the dish, literally! Diners can order something to go: the plates, the napkins, the tableware, the candlesticks and even the tables. Here the restaurant also turns into a shopping catalogue for the brand.
Even with retail, experiential spaces that are empathic to customers are raking in the moolah today. Giving them what they need: variety, comfort and convenience. Factors such as a soothing fragrance and thematic music can not only engage the senses but make a customer linger for longer durations. Softer aspects such as courteous & informed staff, seating & basic refreshment for customers, all-day cafe or nail salons and quick check-outs is sure to get loyal customers.
The Touch of Technology
Technology has embedded itself deep into the operation of both food & retail. And without getting critical, we could safely say that it will shape the way we shop tomorrow. Besides the back-end operations going digital, the F&B business has adopted technology to engage with guests directly too. From taking orders on a tablet, connecting with customers instantly online to promoting events and promotional offers to feedback, technology is redefining the way food businesses are constantly engaging with their customers. What’s more, they are even elevating consumers to become food critics and democratising the rating of the restaurants, pubs and more.
Ekk Cup Chai's store elements such as posters of Mumbai, traditional tiles and wooden rafters create a sense of nostalgia about Mumbai and the love for 'Cutting Chai'.
Omni-channel is the new way for retail businesses today, where technology allows customers to shop almost anywhere. Buy online or offline, get it delivered at home or pick up at the store, make wishlists or become loyal members of a brand, there are numerous ways that technology has strengthened a brand and customer bond. Smart stores of tomorrow are not about gadgets or hardware with gimmicks but one that offers great experience and service which is powered by subtle technologies that the customer barely sees.
New Age Culture Hotspots
With the time crunch that most urbanites face in India today, we love to have everything under common roofs. Shop, eat and get entertained. And with this, there is an evolution in the landscape of community hangouts. These are places that will define the typical characteristics of today’s social ecosystem. They are moving out from traditional cultural spaces such as galleries, theatres and museums to the arena of the common man. Art, culture and live performance for all! Malls, gastro-pubs, breweries, restaurants and even retail stores are bringing in the creative streak and encouraging upcoming artists from all walks of life to showcase their talent.
Dining spaces and retail stores are places to gather, appreciate live music, stand-up comedy, learn a new form of art, DIY workshops &book-readings, catch the latest fashion of the season or launch of a new collection to learning new culinary skills. These are new-age cultural centres and companies/brand offering them are seeing greater walk-ins and better connect with customers.
With a zillion places to eat & shop today, it is overwhelming for most customers to choose. Many times, familiarity reigns over other factors in picking a place. A restaurant that reminds you of good times with family, a pub that takes you back to good old college days or a store where you always get the best pair of denim (customized to fit you). We bond with these places, that have treated us with great products, service and created lasting memories.
Strengthening this loyal customer base and evoking the sense of nostalgia is vital for the new breed of food & retail businesses of today as the footprint of brands & eateries are increasing every day. New stores and restaurants must find ways to ‘cash in’ on the nostalgia and create a new wave of loyal customers, who would come time and again.
About the Contributor, Sanjay Agarwal
Architect and Retail Designer by profession from CEPT and Domus Academy - Milan, Sanjay since 1997 has worked in the Indian retail industry with work experience in corporate companies like Wills Lifestyle, ITC Ltd. and Madura Garments, Aditya Birla. In 2007, Sanjay Agarwal cofounded FRDC, with a core philosophy to serve Indian Industry in Retail Design domain.