Anuj Arora, General Manager, Oberoi Mall, spoke to FoodService India on what makes it one of the most popular F&B destinations in Mumbai’s western suburbs.
What is your opinion about food and leisure being critical to the success of a shopping destination?
Traditionally, shopping has always been associated with leisure and fun. A day of shopping is perceived as a day of outing with family and friends; and no such day is complete without a great food experience. Hence, be it the busy marketplaces of olden days or new-age shopping malls, food and leisure have always been an integral part of any shopping destination. The gradual progression of food courts in shopping malls is a testament to this development. From a select few fast-food kiosks of a decade ago to the vast variety of fine-dine options in malls today, food as a part of a Mall’s ecosystem has come a long way.
In fact, many a times, repeat visits to a mall are for a good meal and/or entertainment, and shopping becomes the by-product. ‘Eating out’ has grown exponentially as a segment, and for an average Indian shopper, who is well travelled and is more open to trying out new cuisines, a Mall, with a variety of cuisines on offer, is the perfect dining destination.In the case of Oberoi Mall, where does the foodservice component fit into the overall scheme of promoting your mall as a complete shopping destination?
Food has been an integral part of our strategy right from the inception of Oberoi Mall. Our vision was to create a family-centric and one-stop destination for fun, food, fashion and films, which would offer the best of all segments to our esteemed patrons. Through the years, we have consciously worked towards getting renowned globally and among Indian F&B brands and Oberoi Mall today is one of the most popular F&B destinations in the western suburbs.
How would you describe the USP of Oberoi Mall as a Food & Beverage destination? What new F&B and dining concepts have been introduced at your mall?
One of Oberoi Mall’s USP is the well-designed Food Court coupled with ambient lighting and seating. The layout, ambience and selection of outlets in the mall is consciously designed in a way to positively engage and encourage our patrons to dine. Standing at any spot in the Food Court, one can easily screen almost all the outlets and then decide their preference – this gives all our F&B partners a fair and equal chance to attract business. Further, our Dessert station (an array of up to 7 kiosks providing unique offerings) is placed in the centre of our Food Court to gently sway our patrons to satiate their sweet cravings post their meals.
We have consciously worked towards becoming the first to launch numerous apparel and fashion brands in India and Mumbai, but have also been the testing ground for many F&B players like Burger King, Taco Bell, Mad Over Donuts and British Brewing Company who opened their first store in Mumbai at Oberoi Mall and also to restaurants and cafes like Olive Bistro, Goregaon Social, Starbucks and Le15 Petit cafe who opened their first store in a Mall at Oberoi Mall. While the sales they clocked at their outlets in Oberoi Mall instilled confidence in them to further expand their presence in Mumbai, we are humbled to learn that their outlet at Oberoi Mall continues to be their best performing outlet in Mumbai.
What is your strategy for allocating space at your mall to the F&B brands?
Being an efficiently designed Mall, we walk a tightrope in ensuring that we have an F&B mix that caters to the maximum types of palates. Hence, we continuously strive for an optimum F&B mix at Oberoi Mall, which ranges from traditional to modern bistro, fast food to fine dine and desserts to drinks. The entire 3rd floor in our ground plus three storey mall is dedicated to F&B and entertainment. We also have cafes at each floor of the mall to provide our patrons with the option to take a break during their retail therapy.
What policies and programs have you put in place at Oberoi Mall?
When we started, we offered a hand-picked array of food brands that we knew would appeal to a diverse range of customers. With the passing years, we kept on constantly reinventing our food services to ensure that we remain in sync with the evolving food preferences and changing market dynamics. We were probably the first Mall in the city to include high-end restaurants; and some of them still operate in our mall. Today, we have over 30 F&B partners in the mall.
With several commercial and residential buildings in the vicinity, we are the preferred place for business lunches/dinners, Friday night outs, weekend binges and birthday/kitty parties. We have options for the adults as well
as the young and hence are the most preferred destination. Accordingly, we keep organizing various events and food festivals on a regular basis. In fact, recently we had our International Food Fest where we saw almost all our F&B partners offering unique menus and stellar deals specifically at our Mall and it was a huge success with people from across Mumbai coming over to Oberoi Mall to taste the specially curated menus and save big on the deals.
What are the special needs food retailers are looking for when setting up shop inside malls?
Besides the standard infrastructure requirement, one thing food retailers need is a certain predictability in terms of footfalls and spends. They need to be sure that their effort and expenses will bear results and they will be able to run a sustainable business.
Over the years, Oberoi Mall has emerged as a preferred destination for leisure, fashion and lifestyle offerings, resulting in increasing footfalls and spends every year in the mall. This has given the comfort and confidence to our F&B partners to keep reinventing themselves to adapt to the changing palate of our patrons. Consequentially, many of our patrons have shifted their purpose of visit to Oberoi Mall to ‘first eat then shop’ instead of ‘first shop then eat’.
What is share of healthy revenue that developers should look?
It would not be wise to generalize on revenue shares since each F&B offering is unique and it comes with its own set of challenges and opportunities. We, at Oberoi Mall, remain cognizant of this fact when we discuss potential partnerships with our F&B partners.