Reinvigorate Your Department Store with a Food Hall
04.28.2014
John Naranjo in Retail, Retail, Retail Centers

Images courtesy of John Naranjo

Department stores, which once represented the apex of the American consumer experience, are in need of reinvigoration. Shoppers are skipping traditional stalwarts to shop at individual boutiques or online. To lure customers back, American department stores would be wise to take a cue from their international counterparts and integrate food halls into their spaces.

Food halls are the best part of high-end major department stores. Such markets are commonly found throughout Europe, Asia, and Mexico. Food emporiums located in famous department stores like Bon Marche, Galleries Lafayette, Printemps in Paris, Harrods, and John Lewis in London, to name a few, have remarkable food and design concepts. These markets lure customers into the department stores with wonderful smells and the promise of tasty treat.

Foodie culture within the United States is on the rise and capitalizing on the public’s interest in the latest food trends could help department stores increase foot traffic and revitalize their sagging brands.

Images courtesy of John Naranjo

Brands and individual boutiques have traditionally elevated department stores, and food halls follow the precedent they set. Food halls showcase gourmet products and allow customers to shop and dine in the same environment. The food halls concept supports an artesian way of displaying and producing specific gourmet foods from different countries and regions. This gives customers a multi-cultural gustatory experience.

Images courtesy of John Naranjo

Asian markets (especially those found in Tokyo, Japan and Seoul, South Korea) are well known for their underground food halls. Hidden below department stores, these underground emporiums are an important part of the food culture and defining characteristic of the urban landscape. The halls are filled with vast combinations of islands, all of which are designed like jewelry cases to showcase premium sushi, chocolates, pastries, and freshly packed meals.

Images courtesy of John Naranjo

Individual brand food boutiques play an important role in the food hall mix. They represent a strong presence for the department stores, and they give customers an international selection of brands and products. The food halls also give the customers a taste of well-known local and international restaurants and combine their offerings with gourmet products. The idea is to showcase products that in turn provide a dining experience. One example: Locate a butcher shop shopping environment next to a steakhouse offering. These food halls attributes are what makes foreign department stores more alluring.

There’s no doubt in my mind that most department stores could benefit from adding a food hall. But as the old saying goes, if you’re going to do something make sure to do it right. Integrating a food hall into an existing department store layout requires the consideration of several key factors. My experience with food halls and exposure to the traditional markets from which they draw inspiration has led me to conclude the following:


John Naranjo is a retail designer for the Gensler’s Miami office. He has been practicing creative design for more than 28 years for different global clients both in Retail and Hospitality and is a member of Florida International University advisory Board’s Interior Architecture Department. Contact him at john_naranjo@gensler.com.
Article originally appeared on architecture and design (http://www.gensleron.com/).
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