Through the work we do with our clients, I’ve seen first-hand how the F&B sector has raised the bar and revolutionised customer experience in recent years. With a focus on increased quality, exceptional hospitality, and personalised service, F&B has set the gold standard for creating memorable and engaging experiences. So, it’s no wonder operators in other sectors have been keen to get in on the act. 

One way that operators in other sectors have successfully done this is to incorporate F&B into their bricks & mortar sites and there’s no better example of this than retail. Recently, we've seen more and more fashion retailers add on-site cafés and bars to their stores, with some of my personal favourite examples being Dior and Ralph Lauren, who have created strong cafés concepts that have perfectly complemented their retail environments and successfully embodied their brands in creative ways.

But this isn’t a strategy reserved for luxury retailers. Just look at the success Primark have had creating in-store F&B propositions at their flagship stores. This is particularly prevalent in their Birmingham site, round the corner from our studio, where they have launched one-of-a-kind collabs with Gregg’s and Disney that have turned the store into somewhat of a tourist destination. When walking past recently, I was amazed to see coach companies busing people in from around the UK to spend the day at what is dubbed “the biggest Primary in the world!”.

It's clear that these on-site cafés and bars are increasing positive dwell time in physical retail environments and in turn, creating a more immersive and engaging shopping experience for customers – combating the rise of online shopping by creating serious case of FOMO and a reason to visit.

F&B MEMORABLE BLOG Natalie Runnerstrom A9gbg5lvqm8 Unsplash

Other luxury retailers have taken this a step further, developing fully-fledged standalone restaurants away from their stores, without a retail product in sight. When done well, this is a brilliant way of bringing new customers to an aspirational brand, effectively lowering the entry barrier, and starting their engagement and affinity with the brand long before they would otherwise consider a purchase.

Great examples of this strategy include Tiffany’s Blue Box Café at Harrod’s, Gucci Osteria by Gucci (curated by three-Michelin-starred Italian chef Massimo Bottura) and the aforementioned Ralph’s Coffee by Ralph Lauren, which has made the crossover to a standalone F&B proposition and can now be found in 16 sites across six countries.

Whether utilising the in-store or standalone strategy, F&B experiences can have a hugely positive impact on the health of a retail business’s brand and bottom line. But execution is everything and defining the right F&B strategy and modelling for a retail brand (or any out-of-sector brand, for that matter) who have never operated a restaurant before takes a great deal of planning.

I’ve seen the intricacy of this planning first-hand through a project we’re currently working on with a luxury Swiss jewellery brand (vague I know, but I’m very conscious I put my own signature on the NDA!), where our team are defining and developing the right global F&B strategy for the brand – dealing with the ‘why, where, what and how’ to develop in-store and standalone F&B propositions that will introduce new audiences to their brand around the world.

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