Is Food The New Fashion? Restaurants As New Retail Anchor

Vancouver has garnered one of the strongest food cultures in the country. We’re lucky to have access to authentic and mouth-watering cuisines from just about every corner of the globe. From sushi to curry, you’ll never run out of options or new menus to explore.

Food has always been a social occasion. Whether it’s happy hour or brunch, cafes and eateries are typically packed with residents any day of the week. Residents of Metro Vancouver definitely love their restaurants, and commercial developers are taking notice.

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Source: Glowbal Group

“Our tenant roster is now 40 per cent restaurants,” said Stephen Knight, CEO and Managing Partner at Sitings Realty. “They’re becoming an important part. Regional shopping centres are now courting restaurants, and you’re going to see more and more as time goes on.”  

According to a Statistics Canada Survey of Household Spending, in 2016 the average household spent $390 more that year dining out than they did in 2011. This growth has been felt by some of the city’s biggest restaurant brands, including Glowbal Group.

“There is growth in Vancouver. Tourism is moving up, especially with the Canadian dollar so low,” said Emad Yacoub, CEO/President & Proprietor, Glowbal Restaurant Group. “However, as the growth goes up, all of our prices go up -- leasing, cost of products. It’s a game we have to play. It’s very important how we present our product to people when they have so many choices.”

One of the ways that restaurateurs are trying to drive sales is by looking at data, specifically cell phone technology.

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Source: Earls

“There are different aspects to consider when looking at enclosed malls versus street presence,” said Sharilyn Mason, Director, Capital Assets, Earls Kitchen + Bar. “We’re tapping into cell phone technology to learn how people move in communities. It’s actually become more of a collaboration, only the landlords are tracking the amount of people going through the doors while retailers are tracking the conversion rate.”

Yet as more and more people are increasing the amount they spend eating out, restaurants are still facing a number of challenges.

“A few years ago, I was paying $12/hour for dishwashing. Now I pay $17. My managers were making $40,000 per year, now they’re making $75,000,” said Yacoub. “I used to spend $9/pound on lobster, last month was $19. Like it or not, pricing has to match international pricing. There’s no choice but to increase our prices. We’re watching a growth in sales, and our bottom line goes down because the costs of goods are up: rent, product, materials -- everything is going up.”

Mason also shared that they feel the same pressure at Earls, however are reluctant to increase prices because they’re at the premium casual level and are cautious that it may drive patrons away. However, Yacoub argues this thought process.

“If I’m in Toronto, I’m going to pay $75 for a striploin steak, but in Vancouver, we’re charging $54. Pricing has to go up to match that.”

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