Culinary Treats & Shopping

The way to a customer’s heart is through their stomach! Culinary treats have the potential to increase conversion rates and average ticket size for retailers. Success isn’t guaranteed, but these factors significantly reduce the risk of failure.

More and more retailers, shopping centres and cities invest in new, attractive and unique food and beverage concepts. These concepts often differ in level of integration between culinary treats and shopping.

On the light-touch end of the spectrum, retailers may simply offer free water, espresso or sparkling wine on weekends, for special events or even all the time to customers who show serious interest in their assortment, try on merchandise or look for customisation of their purchase. Offering culinary treats gives sales staff a reason to interact with potential customers beyond their usual attempts at making a sale. It’s a positive move for both sales staff and customer and thus helps to build rapport. In most cases it helps increase the in-store-retention-period of a customer. And the more time customers spend in a store, the more likely they are to buy something.

Department stores were the pioneers when it comes to offering customers culinary treats to keep them shopping. But classic food courts on the top floor with the charm of an outdated factory canteen no longer work. Many multibrand formats are therefore investing in attractive and surprising culinary treats and spend more time in finding the right location for their offering.

Culinary Treats & Shopping in Department Stores

The breakfast at Illum’s Original Café on Illums Rooftop is legendary and getting a table on weekends is much like winning the jackpot. At the ground floor you can indulge in delicious sweets from Holms Bager, a family run bakery offering a great selection of freshly baked bread, cakes and pastry, or enjoy a perfect cup of coffee and fresh juices at Joe & the Juice.

The Rooftop boasts six jaw-dropping restaurants and bars, alongside the best view in town.  And let’s not forget Illum Underground, a food market, deli and grocery shopping destination that boasts several gourmet areas to let all foodies delight.

culinary treats shopping


The culinary treats help Illum increase their footfall. The concept attracts customers who may not intend to or cannot afford to frequently shop at Denmark’s prime luxury department store. But passing by all the latest fashion and cosmetics on the way up to the famous rooftop is likely to sway the more malleable visitor into buying that item they didn’t know they were looking for.

Other examples include German department stores Breuninger in Düsseldorf and Stuttgart that feature the only mainland subsidiaries of the Sylt-based cult bar Sansibar. Local fashion hero Engelhorn in Mannheim offers culinary treats on different floors, like a coffee shop on the ground floor of its sports house, a champagne bar, and several excellent restaurants topped by Opus V, a gourmet temple with two Michelin stars and thus a destination in and of itself. And British Harrod’s Tea Room and food hall are both legendary and worth every penny you spend there.

Culinary Treats at Shopping Centres

A lot of shopping centres are currently refurbishing and updating their food courts and adding culinary treats to key junctions on all floors. My Zeil, an architectural landmark shopping mall at one of the top 10 shopping streets in Germany, has undergone a complete refurbishment and is about to open Foodtopia next month. Foodtopia is designed as a new foodie destination that mixes local and international foods, cafés, bars, lunch and dining options and will be open beyond shopping hours.

Besides increasing retention period of customers, increasing footfall is a key purpose of all this investment into culinary treats for shoppers. The My Zeil centre management expects at least a 10% increase in footfall in return for this investment.

culinary treats shopping


Specialty Formats Explore Culinary Treats

Smaller retailers and specialty stores are beginning to add culinary treats to their shopping experience too. Reischmann, a local hero retailer in Ravensburg (a nice, historic district town in the southern part of Germany) recently refurbished their sports house. Each floor is dedicated to individual sports segments based on the special needs of different sports and its corresponding target consumer. And each floor gets its own matching culinary treat. A clever approach, as it gets consumers to spend more time on precisely the floor with the goods they’re most interested in. No need to change floors if they want to have water, an espresso or just a break with a little refreshment.

Top Culinary Customer Experience: Shopping Cafés

And finally, there are truly integrated shopping cafés. Stores, that is, in which you can indulge in culinary treats while shopping or shopping while enjoying food and beverages by design.

I live in Munich and every time I go shopping, I discover a new boutique with integrated food option. One of my favourites is Marais Geschmacksachen housed in a former textile branch office and fitted with original roaring 20ies interior design. Savouring a delicious Tarte Tatin while browsing extraordinary vintage furniture, curiosities, cosmetics, kid’s fashion and rare accessories is a unique experience. Unsurprisingly, I hardly ever leave without buying something.

Lunch, Fashion & Cosmetics at Café Marais (Photo: Heike Blank)

Lunch, Fashion & Cosmetics at Café Marais (Photo: Heike Blank)

Another one always worth a visit is Café Schneewittchen (i.e. Café Snow white). It’s (not only) a breakfast hotspot and a destination if you are looking for tasteful, innovative interior design items, exclusive gift wrapping paper or an affordable accessory to pimp up your apartment.

Interior Design and top notch breakfast at Café Schneewittchen (Photo: Heike Blank)

Interior Design and top notch breakfast at Café Schneewittchen (Photo: Heike Blank)

And there is Rocket Store, a unique combination of Scandinavian fashion, streetwear and culinary treats.  With its eight years of existence, Rocket Store has already become an institution in Munich’s hip Glockenbach area. Owner Kirsten Almanstötter understands that today’s customers are constantly looking for new and surprising merchandise. As a result, she limits the life cycle of brands to three months at most. This way there’s permanently something new to discover. Brands she features at Rocket Store provide their merchandise through consignment deals. Merchandise unsold after three months is returned. This limits her financial exposure and sell-through risk while giving brands a chance at making their way into the hearts of consumers.

But an ever-changing assortment is not the only smart move to increase footfall and make consumers visit her store more frequently than others. The latest addition is a Weekender Café offering home made cakes, pastries and specialty coffees. And many customers who visit Rocket Store for the delicious sweets do end up buying a fashion item too, not least because there is new merchandise to discover every week.

Best home made cinnamon rolls in town at rocket store Munich (Photo: Heike Blank)

Best home made cinnamon rolls in town at Rocket Store Munich (Photo: Heike Blank)

Surprisingly, mono-brand stores have yet to discover the advantages of culinary treats to boost footfall, increase in-store retention period, conversion rate, average ticket size and turnover. There are a lot of brands out there who struggle with too big, too expensive stores, shrinking footfall and consumers who don’t visit frequently enough. Not least because they check out the collection at the beginning of the season and only return to buy during sales periods.

Factors for Culinary Treats & Shopping Success

Not all of the culinary treats and shopping combos work on the long run. The Espresso Bike in Schwabing, where you could order a customised Italian bike while enjoying excellent Italian espresso closed down after less than two years. The same happened to Belly & Beans, a store for pregnant women to shop for maternity clothes while enjoying alcohol free champagne and decaf coffee specialties. But the potential advantages are too great to not at least give it a try!

These factors make your culinary treats and shopping format much more likely to succeed:

  1. Know your target consumers and your actual shoppers. Very often there is a huge gap between the two and it is crucial to accept and understand it.
  2. Look for the perfect fit! The culinary treats you are offering should compliment your assortment, surprise and truly satisfy your customers. Icebreaker e.g. could offer organic, sustainable, healthy food with a New Zealand touch. The North Face or Jack Wolfskin could offer protein rich, healthy food and culinary treats made from outdoor foods.
  3. Based on style and size of your planned culinary offering, consider whether to get a professional on board or run it on your own.
  4. The culinary offering needs to become a destination in itself. This means the food and beverage offering needs to be top quality and delicious at competitive prices. Frequently offer new culinary treats to surprise your customers.
  5. Eating is a daily habit. Chances are that your customers will return more often than once or twice a season. To not only benefit from your food turnover but make regular sales, you need to showcase fresh merchandise more frequently.
  6. Review your assortment and, where necessary, add small items and accessories at entry price points to reduce the threshold for spending money.
  7. Develop an easy but flexible bonus program for your food offering and a frequent communication with your customers about new arrivals and new culinary treats.

Keep in mind that adding culinary treats to a store’s offering is not a guarantee for economic success. Like everything else, it needs adequate management attention and expertise.  But it is a great chance to enhance the shopping experience for your customers, to increase footfall, turnover and customer loyalty. Give it a well-informed try and enjoy the new atmosphere in your store(s)!

About the Author

Heike Blank has worked for big organisations such as VF Europe and s.Oliver but also for niche brands such as Ecko Unltd. and Zoo York. Her extensive experience with opening and managing own retail, partner stores, concessions and shop-in-shop in 23 countries in Europe, the Middle East and Asia make her an expert in retail portfolio management and expansion. Get in touch with her via e-mail or read more from her here.

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