The food and beverage (F&B) market has attracted its fair share of headlines recently, but, like retail, the sector is segmented, and there are great opportunities for those who are able to ensure a compelling and relevant offer.

Sarah fox hammerson

By Sarah Fox, head of restaurants and leisure at Hammerson

Diners vote with their knives and forks and we are beginning to see a clear divide between brands that give today’s consumers what they want and brands that struggle to meet or adapt to these demands.

A spate of large operators implementing CVAs may have created concern for landlords and restaurant brands – however, the F&B space has always seen a high level of rotation. The disappearance and emergence of brands is ‘business as usual’ for the market. And whilst the rate of administrations is picking up, it conversely provides a great opportunity for new and up and coming brands to make their mark.

The current shake-up forces operators to look critically at their offer and ensure its relevance. This is why we see the current environment as presenting new opportunities for the Hammerson portfolio and retail destinations such as The Bullring Estate in Birmingham, and also the wider industry at large.

Bullring mowgli

Indian street food restaurant Mowgli chose Hammerson’s Grand Central to open its debut restaurant in Birmingham

The restructuring of large restaurant brands who were previously stalwarts of the industry, such as Prezzo and Jamie’s Italian, will pave the way for new independent brands to find their place in the market. Successful operators are achieving a point of difference; to deliver exceptional customer service alongside an enhanced and exciting menu and all set within a stimulating and enlivened environment.

Consumers increasingly mix and match between the joy of discovering new brands and the comfort of a reliable chain and this continues to shape the way we curate our dining offer. Since taking ownership of Grand Central, Birmingham in 2016, Hammerson has implemented a proactive asset management strategy to significantly enhance the destination’s existing dining mix. In recent months, we have welcomed the likes of the Lebanese offer, Comptoir Libanais, and the Indian street food concept, Mowgli. To enhance the overall F&B line-up, a string of new independent restaurant signings will soon be announced.

Recognising current trends and modern consumer demands are crucial, and we have always been conscious of this when considering how we create the ideal tenant mix. Along with the rising interest in independent brands and aesthetic ‘Instagram-worthy’ options, in recent years we have seen huge popularity in a more casual approach to dining, as well as an increasing interest in healthy eating through both vegetarian and vegan offers – something which our new breed of Thai and Asian brands aim to capture.

Comptoir grand central

Lebanese restaurant Comptoir Libanais is another adjustment to the F&B mix at The Bullring

A more varied and carefully considered choice is evidently key for the modern consumer. Of course, many large and well-established brands continue to be successful and have rightly earned their position in today’s restaurant market. Generally, these are the brands that keep their offer fresh and remain current by adapting and moving with trends. Pret a Manger is a great example of this, having made the most of the vegetarian boom by trialling and then rolling out sister brand, Veggie Pret, which has already seen great success. Asian restaurant Wagamama and much loved chicken operator Nando’s both continue to grow from strength to strength as they evolve their offer to stay fresh and relevant.

So, although there are challenges, it is evident the opportunity to create a diverse and compelling tenant mix is very much still alive. The dawn of a refreshed restaurant market marks the beginning of a very exciting time for the business. It’s a chance for us to find new culinary talent. Our iconic retail and leisure destinations such as The Bullring Estate and Leeds’ Victoria Gate are great places to nurture brands that continue to surprise and delight our shoppers.