Leisure and F&B is taking centre stage at this year’s MAPIC conference and follows the growing trend by retail landlords and asset managers looking to enhance their retail destinations with these operators.

As part of MAPIC 2023, two dedicated exhibiting areas and conference programmes – LeisurUp by MAPIC and The Happetite Forum – will help attendees learn more about the latest innovations and emerging concepts in the leisure and F&B spaces.

Since the end of pandemic restrictions, leisure and F&B has been at the forefront for retail leasing strategies. Vacant spaces left by some of the UK’s biggest retail chains have been filled by immersive operators who are providing experiences such as mini golf, arcade games, bowling, and e-sports. Meanwhile, the traditional shopping centre food court has been expanded, with larger restaurant operators now occupying formerly prime retail units.

The rise in leisure and F&B operators comes after a recent whitepaper between MAPIC and Leisure Development Partners found that 54% of 18-25 year olds, and 40% of 26-35 year olds, visit a city centre or shopping centre more frequently if there are entertainment and socialising opportunities. Preferred entertainment and socialising operators among this group included cinemas, outdoor gardens, competitive socialising, and bowling.

As a result of this growing demand, we have seen numerous collaborations between retail destinations and leisure operators. This has included the adaptation of popular TV shows such as Ninja Warrior, The Crystal Maze, and The Cube into immersive experiences, while previously vacant department store spaces, have been filled by operators offering a variety of activities ranging from the traditional bowling alleys and crazy golf to F1 Arcades, baseball batting cages, and e-sports arenas, as retail destinations chase Gen Z and millennial visitors.

Alongside the need for these shoppers to be ‘entertained’, retail destinations have realised the need to keep visitors in their locations for longer. This has led to many expanding their F&B offering so that it makes up a larger percentage of their centres. As well as welcoming favourites such as Nandos, Wagamama’s, McDonald’s, and KFC, retail destinations are increasingly looking at local and fast growing restaurant and dining concepts. These have ranged from food halls offering a selection of different local providers, to growing brands such as Slim Chickens, Popeyes, and Tim Hortons, as centres look to provide a diverse range of offers to help entice visitors.

This year’s MAPIC therefore presents a great opportunity for retail landlords, asset managers, and agents to discuss how leisure and F&B outlets have impacted their respective retail destinations, and what new concepts could be around the corner to help drive footfall and occupancy.