Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Upcoming Malls To Offer Japanese Food Concepts

Source : The Straits Times, Sep 2, 2008

SUBURBAN and city fringe malls are usually dull on the food front but they are being forced to spice up their menus to lure a new generation who know their sashimi from their satay.

What were once treats found mainly in Orchard Road outlets are now being served from Tampines to Jurong as malls fight to give themselves an edge.

Scheduled to open late next year in Little India, City Square Mall will feature three foodcourts, one of which will have a Japanese theme. PHOTO: CDL

City Square Mall, which is slated to open late next year in the Little India area, will have three foodcourts, including one that is Japanese-themed.

Called ishi mura, the Japanese foodcourt by the firm behind the Suki Sushi and Sakura buffet restaurants will take up about 7,000sq ft of the mall.

Another mall to put its culinary cards on the table is the upcoming Tampines 1, which has signed a Japanese food hall as an anchor tenant.

The mall, which is expected to open in March, will be offering authentic Japanese cuisine in a gourmet street setting, said a statement from AsiaMalls Management, which will run the centre.

Its deputy general manager, Ms Stephanie Ho, said suburban malls have to offer more food choices to meet the higher expectations of shoppers.

'Competition is fierce in Tampines. There are a lot of foodcourts and in the HDB areas, there are a lot of food places. So having just another foodcourt in Tampines 1 does not make sense,' said Ms Ho.

Knight Frank deputy managing director Danny Yeo said suburban malls are hedging their bets, boasting trendier restaurants and more higher-priced options while retaining the usual fast food eateries and other low-priced outlets.

'Generally, in Singapore, more and more food and beverage tenants are going into the shopping malls,' said Mr Yeo.

'Around 10 to 15 years ago, when you went into a shopping mall, you would have found 10 to 15 per cent of the space allocated for food outlets. Nowadays, that has increased to as much as 20 per cent of the space.'

Or more. City Square Mall, which is aimed at the mid-income shopper, will devote 25 per cent of its 450,000 sq ft of net lettable area to more than 50 food and beverage outlets.

City Developments yesterday announced that close to 70 per cent of the eco-themed mall, which is twice the size of Junction 8, has been taken up.

Nearly half of the space will be taken up by nine anchor tenants, including a 23,000 sq ft Kopitiam foodcourt and an 11,000 sq ft Banquet foodcourt.

'We want to ensure that it's a food haven,' said City Square Mall's senior manager, Ms May Then.

Much of the demand is coming from young people and families who are eating out more often as they work late and have no time to cook, said Mr Yeo. Naturally, more food outlets will spring up in malls to cater to them.

Ms Ho agreed: 'People want to be able to hang out at a nice cafe near their place and not have to go to Orchard Road.'

She said Coffee Club and Toast Box have recently set up shop at Tiong Bahru Plaza and even Hougang Mall boasts a Cafe Cartel.

Japanese cuisine is clearly seen as a crowd-puller. Jurong Point, which opened last month, has an Osaka food street in the basement.

The food hall in Tampines 1 will have 10 counters of Japanese food, with some taken up by established restaurant names such as Botejyu, Yoshimi, Hokkyokusei, Aoba and Toku Toku Tei. These are traditional food establishments set up in Japan as early as the 1920s.

Their fare is mostly familiar to local Japanese food fans. Botejyu, for example, is famous for its Osaka okonomiyaki, or Japanese pancake, while Yoshimi from Hokkaido serves soup curry. Hokkyokusei, set up in 1923, serves Japanese omelette rice.

Japan Foods Holdings, which is behind the chain of 14 Ajisen Ramen stores here, is bringing these operators in and will be operating the food hall.

With people becoming more affluent, increasing numbers are willing to spend more on food, said market watchers.

Customers welcome new concepts and for retailers, they offer them the chance to generate more revenue if done well, said Mr Yeo.

'Over the years, with asset enhancement in the major malls, you see more new retail concepts and they are mostly food and beverage ones,' said Ms Then.

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