Insight: growing focus on travel locations
Travel locations have become the preferred engine for growth at the Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group, which has shifted its attention away from the increasingly pressured high street in the UK.
Speaking at MAPIC, the annual retail property developers showcase in the South of France, Nick Shapira, strategy and development director at Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group, told a packed auditorium: “At a time when the high street feels under pressure in the UK from competition the travel retail space has consumer demand. We’ve been more than happy with it. It’s far more complex to manage - in places like airports - but it's incredibly rewarding.”
While the company has recently closed a small number of UK high street outlets the travel division is increasing its presence around the world. Its restaurants are positioned in travel locations including Vienna, Nice, Oslo, and Dusseldorf in partnership with SSP, which operates its stores under franchisee and specialises in travel sites.
The growth in food and beverage in the travel locations is driven by customer demand when travelling and the willingness by landlords to improve the food and beverage offer in these locations as people increasingly want a better experience.
Food and beverage is the key theme at this year’s MAPIC as landlords of large retail developments seek to improve the experience for shoppers and help drive greater footfall to the retail outlets.
One of the challenges of operating in travel retail is the limitations on square footage available. “You cannot expect to get into travel retail with the same footprint that you have on the high street. But we can open our deli concept on 250 sq metres, which is half our high street units size, but they will generally generate the same sales. It’s a captive audience,” says Shapira.
As well as the challenge of developing a smaller footprint unit that still fully adheres to the brand’s values he says the other big issue in travel locations is people. This is most acute at airports where security clearance of personnel takes seven weeks, which means that employee illnesses and staff turnover can give real headaches as it is not easy to then bring in the necessary replacements.
“At high street outlets if even the kitchen porter is sick then you can simply drop somebody in from another outlet. You can’t do this at an airport site. That's why a lot of operators go with specialists like Autogrill and SSP as they operate multiple [franchised] units and can move people around the different brands. It’s not ideal as there are different cultures in therm but it's a necessary evil,” he says.
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