While food courts have been in existence for years, it is only now that the space is being considered an integral retail category. The dining-out market is rapidly expanding and food court operators are today going to great lengths to embrace innovative ways of getting in customers. Once categorized as a one-stop location to grab a quick bite, food courts have evolved to become a community hub that offers incredible experiences to customers. Today, food courts are also becoming smarter by adopting tech-driven operations, thereby setting-up a smoother functioning of the entire food court system. Isthara, a leading smart food court pioneer has identified a few ways food courts are evolving to create unique and memorable experiences for customers:
Incorporating interactive elements: Food courts are incorporating interactive elements to allow customers to actively participate and engage with the space. These elements can include games like ping pong tables, foosball tables, virtual reality stations, and interactive kiosks. By adding these interactive elements, food courts are creating a more dynamic and enjoyable experience for customers, making their time spent in the food court more immersive and engaging. This can also help to create a sense of community among customers and make the food court a destination where customers come not only for the food but also to socialise and engage with the local community.
Creating visually appealing spaces: Creating visually appealing spaces in a food court is an effective way to create a pleasant and inviting atmosphere for customers, making them more likely to want to spend time there. This can also help to create a unique identity for the food court and make it stand out. To create visually appealing spaces, food courts are playing with the design and decorating the common areas with elements such as lighting, colour schemes, artwork, and seating arrangements. This includes incorporating more natural light and greenery, such as plants and trees, into the design of the space. Additionally, food courts are also using modern and visually interesting architectural elements such as high ceilings and unique lighting fixtures. Food courts are also increasingly incorporating more artwork and other decorative elements to create a more visually engaging environment. Some food courts are using different themes like coastal, tropical, or farm-to-table to create a unique ambiance.
Hosting events and promotions: Food courts are creating unique and memorable experiences by hosting events and promotions such as food festivals, live music, and games. Additionally, food courts may host special events to celebrate holidays or other notable dates, such as Valentine's Day or Christmas, to create unique dining experiences for customers. This can add a festive atmosphere and give customers a chance to try something new and different. A lot of food courts also introduce monthly pop-up stores to celebrate new food themes and cater to the seasonal demand for specific food items. By hosting events and promoting a sense of community, food courts are creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere that encourages customers to come back to this space. This also makes the food court a destination where customers come not only for the food but also to socialise, meet friends, and engage with the local community.
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Personalizing the experience: Food courts are personalizing customer experience by offering a variety of food options and creating personalized options. This allows customers to create a dish that is tailored to their individual tastes and dietary preferences. Food courts are also more inclusive nowadays with vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options readily available. Food courts also have kiosks and digital menu boards that allow customers to customize their orders and choose the ingredients that they like.By offering a diverse range of cuisines that are not typically found in restaurants, food courts are empowering customers to try out unique food combinations.
Adopting Tech and innovation: The food courts of today are adopting tech innovations to provide customers with a tech-centric culinary ecosystem where they can interact with menus, dashboards, delivery, and dining services. Food courts are offering seamless experiences for customers by adopting technology and innovation such as mobile ordering and payment, self-service kiosks, contactless payment, digital menu boards, IoT-based kitchen equipment, virtual kitchen concept, and robotics. Smart food court brands such as Istharaalso gather data intelligence to form predictive analysis data and provide it to vendors who refine the menu and enhance offerings basis this information. The brand also provides a mobile application for users to choose and combine their food orders and provides a contactless payment option, to further enhance the contactless dining experience in their food courts.
The food courts of today are not just small, supporting aspects of a larger retail function. These spaces are adapting to the needs of customers and are slowly turning into crowd pullers. With its visual appeal, tech enhancement, and customer-enhanced dining experience, food courts are creating unique and memorable experiences for customers, and it is no more a quick-grab-to-bite-before-a-movie kind of space anymore. The food court segment is growing at an exponential pace and with smart food courts such as that of Isthara taking over the retail space, we can expect to see more advancements in this segment soon.