The retail industry has experienced a great deal of change over the last 2½ years with the accelerated growth of online sales, the introduction of new safety protocols, the expansion of experiential retail concepts and the integration of new technologies. Retailers have to be increasingly savvy at luring consumers to brick-and-mortar locations, finding creative ways to offer experiences that can’t be replicated in the digital environment.
Retailers are turning to food and beverage and hospitality concepts to enhance their spaces. The retail storefront is no longer about just leaving with goods in hand. Rather, it is a physical manifestation of a brand and a way for potential customers to experience the brand and its products in person. While online sales will continue to grow, showrooms are necessary to facilitate buying decisions, inviting customers to see, feel and imagine their new purchases before committing. Customers are now seen as guests that are looking for an experience that they can’t receive while sitting behind a computer screen.
Shoppers today are invited to immerse themselves from the moment they set foot inside a store and search for a memorable experience that will keep them coming back for more. To curate the ideal shopping experience for today’s consumers, retailers are looking to the hospitality industry for inspiration, specifically incorporating food-and-beverage services. Infusing trendy gastronomic offerings within retail spaces elevates the shopping experience — stimulating shoppers’ senses and forging emotional connections. Additionally, the presence of food and beverage supports engagement and builds customer loyalty. It attracts shoppers to retail destinations, increases their time spent in-store and boosts overall spending, resulting in sales growth for retailers.
Implementing Food and Beverage Design
Designing the showroom to include juice bars, cafés and cocktail lounges offers spaces where customers can unwind and take a break from perusing the store aisles to enjoy a drink or small bite. Without leaving the store, they are able to take in the excellent customer service, satisfy their cravings and review products with the sales team.
However, food-and-beverage amenities often require additional coordination to effortlessly fit into the sales floor, as teams need to consider building systems such as plumbing and ventilation; merchandising needs; and the customer journey. By intentionally designing these amenities into the floorplan during the early stages of design development, retailers can avoid redesigns and code impediments that halt construction and cost time and money.
We work closely with our clients to assure a seamless and purposeful transition from retail sales areas to food-and-beverage areas without distracting customers from the brand. Food and beverage are intended to enhance the customer experience by creating a memorable and engaging environment to learn about the brand and experience their offerings.
A unique element about designing food-and-beverage spaces within retail is that all the senses are activated when outfitting the store. Scent marketing, for instance, relies on diffusing carefully selected fragrances at different customer touch points throughout the store to create a pleasant shopping experience. For example, the addition of a juice bar organically releases fruity and sweet scents within a store and entices shoppers to linger and leisurely browse. At Williams-Sonoma, wafts of mulling spices fill the shop during the holiday season to entice customers into the cozy and warm showroom for gift shopping.
Retail’s Era of Repositioning
Experiential retail is on the rise across all sectors of retailers — luxury, big box and small business. Creating an immersive and shareable experience motivates customers to visit stores in person and prioritizes customer engagement. Experiences range from cooking demonstrations and pop-up events to product building and catered meet and greets.
These design considerations can be found at the recently designed Bucherer TimeMachine in New York City. For the new flagship, we implemented an interior design layout that encompassed Bucherer’s luxurious residential aesthetic while giving visitors a private and personalized experience through shopping, lounging and servicing products. The showroom is a museum-like experience with large, full-height libraries, fine art found throughout the space and full-service bars on every floor. The store’s fascination lies in its upscale design, lounges, bars and art installations. Across all three floors, the addition of these bars and lounge areas allows for products to be visible from every seat.
Benefits of Incorporating Food and Beverage
With the rise of online shopping, retailers are using their showrooms to let customers experience products before purchasing online while simultaneously introducing customers to the brand values and story. A design that fuses both retail and food and beverage provides numerous benefits such as elevating the in-store experience, creating a specialized showroom for the brand and nurturing communities.
Retail isn’t the only industry incorporating these food-and-beverage offerings into its environment. Other nontraditional companies and services like dental offices, fitness studios and financial institutions have taken cues from hospitality to infuse these elements into their designs and layouts. These thoughtful additions separate brands from their competitors and lead to customers spending more time engaged with a space, their products and their services.
Helen Herrick is a Director at MBH Architects and an expert in translating business strategy into customer-experience focused environments. A creative and effective leader in store design, strategy and project management, Herrick has more than 15 years of experience in retail, hospitality, workplace, financial services and healthcare. Her career has covered architectural and interior design, transformation strategy, and bridging the digital and physical customer experiences through strategic and perceptive problem-solving.