Retail is detail as chains flock to Intu’s shopping hubs

Intu

With a £1.5 billion investment pipeline in the UK over the next 10 years, shopping centre operator Intu has got foodservice chains flocking to its retail sites. FEJ looks out how its focus on creating a compelling dining and leisure experience is the catalyst for a raft of kitchen projects in some of the country’s highest footfall locations.

There might be a debate raging around the future of the high street right now, but as far as the new generation of shopping malls is concerned, business is booming. One of the prime reasons for this is the insatiable appetite of UK-wide foodservice chains for units in retail destinations where visitors are coming through the doors with as much intention to socialise and eat as to shop.

Few are leading this charge with quite as much vigour as Intu, the brand behind some of the largest shopping centres in the UK, stretching from Thurrock in the south to Glasgow in Scotland. It operates 18 locations in the UK, which collectively attract more than 400 million customer visits a year.

The company has a £1.5 billion investment in the pipeline in the UK over the next 10 years, which is hugely significant for the catering equipment industry as when Intu opens or extends a shopping centre, restaurants — and kitchen projects — inevitably follow.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the North East, where an extension of the ‘Qube’ leisure area at the Gateshead Metrocentre is currently taking place. Gateshead easily ranks in Intu’s list of top five shopping centres and the company is investing around £16m on the project, which will see the leisure and restaurant area extended to 45,000 square feet and incorporate a Namco Funscape entertainment area and a 12-screen Odeon cinema complex.

The investment has certainly had the desired effect of pulling in a raft of top dining names from the industry. Thaikhun and Barburrito have both chosen the site as the location for their first ventures in the region, while a further nine high-profile restaurants have signed leases even though it won’t be ready until next year (see ‘Intu Metrocentre’ panel opposite).

The ambition is to create experience-based shopping centres that embrace the changing needs of today’s customer. It’s really positive to see key restaurant names coming on board”

Two more chains were also close to being announced as we went to press as the shopping centre edges towards its target of creating an area containing 24 restaurants, cafes and bars when the extension opens in spring 2016.
Thaikhun will offer authentic Thai street food in an outlet decorated with genuine bric-a-brac items from Thailand. Kim Kaewkraikhot, owner and chef director of the chain, believes the centre is the ideal location for it to launch to customers in the North East.

“I want to bring the true cooking of my country to customers throughout the UK. It’s exciting to be opening in another new region of England. Intu Metrocentre will be a great place for us and we’re really looking forward to being part of the Qube dining and leisure quarter,” he comments.

Barburrito expresses similar sentiments and is hopeful that its first North East site will be a big success. Jim Bishop, head of property at Barburrito, comments: “It’s great to be opening at intu Metrocentre and continues our expansion throughout the UK. Intu Metrocentre is one of the top shopping centres in the country with great footfall figures.”

In addition to Thaikhun and Barburrito, the new line-up features a string of chains that continue to expand throughout the country. This includes Coast to Coast, TGI Friday’s, Chiquito, Five Guys, Ask, Bella Italia and Subway. They will join names such as Pizza Express, Handmade Burger Co, Nando’s, Zizzi, Wagamama and Frankie & Benny’s, which are already present in the existing Qube dining area.

It is not only in the north where investment from the leading chains into the retail sector offers the prospect of significant kitchen scheme work.

In Watford, where Intu is overseeing a £100m retail scheme that will culminate in Charter Place Shopping Centre being integrated with the existing refurbished Intu Watford shopping centre, restaurant chains are champing at the bit to get a piece of the action.

Barburrito

Barburrito is bringing its format to the Gateshead Metrocentre next year.

Latin American-inspired Las Iguanas has agreed a 3,500 square foot unit at the site, Byron has taken a 3,700 square foot unit and Cabana a 3,020 square foot unit. The addition of new catering names and leisure facilities is designed to create a balanced and compelling mix of retail, leisure and dining at the venue. Construction is expected to start during 2015, with the new destination scheduled to open in 2017.

Rebecca Ryman, regional director of Intu, comments: “We’re revitalising the shopping experience at Intu Watford and the new development encapsulates Intu’s ambition to create experience-based shopping centres that embrace the changing needs of today’s customer. It’s really positive to see such key restaurant names coming on board and recognising the strength of the Intu brand.”

Watford will be the third Intu centre to secure the popular hamburger brand Byron, which has also recently opened at Intu Derby. Marc Balding, Byron’s property director, remarks: “Working with a national brand like Intu has the benefit of scale and allows us to branch out into popular locations across the UK.”

As the likes of Intu and others establish new public realms for entertainment and events, foodservice chains are vying hard to secure the right space — and build the right kitchens — that will allow them to convert guaranteed retail footfall into customers.

UK development momentum

Interim results published by shopping centre developer Intu last month revealed that the organisation has increased its UK development programme from £1.3 billion to £1.5 billion. Its main restaurant expansion activities include:

  • Nottingham: Mall refreshment and restaurant quarter. Due to be completed in the latter part of 2015.
  • Stoke-on-Trent: Leisure extension. Due to be completed in the latter part of 2015.
  • Newcastle: Commenced major restaurant expansion projects covering 20 units. Due to be completed in 2016.
  • Gateshead: Commenced major restaurant expansion projects covering 11 units. Due to be completed in 2016.
  • Bromley: Commenced restaurant expansion projects covering five units. Due to be completed in 2016.
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