Flavour of change: new F&B model shaping Bangkok retail scene

Experiential F&B concept is reshaping Bangkok’s retail landscape, driving footfall, occupancy, and revenue. Adaptation is key to success in a dynamic market.

September 25, 2023

In recent years, Thailand’s retail landscape has faced significant disruptions induced by technology, most notably the seismic shift in shopping behaviour due to the rise of e-commerce. The change in consumer behaviour has transformed the retail industry, forcing operators to recalibrate and adapt their malls to focus more on lifestyle and experiential concepts.

Nonetheless, this digital era has benefited certain types of retail tenants, mostly F&B (Figure 1). Dining culture in Thailand has long been more than just part of a necessity, evolving into an even more compelling source for passion, social interaction and personal expression of taste and class. Modern media has elevated these ideas to new dimensions.

Figure 1: Notable tenant mix evolution in leading prime CBA Bangkok shopping centres, 2019 to 2023 YTD

Source: JLL Thailand Research and Consulting, 2Q23

This evolution in the F&B industry caters to new target customers who crave freshly cooked dishes they have seen online or seek a content-worthy experience to share on social media platforms. Consequently, this trend has played crucial parts in transforming retail centres in three fundamentals: 

Higher awareness: Renowned F&B destinations could be a good start to building a mall’s awareness, as content creators would produce organic/sponsored content in the form of online reviews, reels, or vlogs, for example.

Higher footfalls: Trendy F&B outlets such as BBQ, shabu buffet or well-known local cuisines should drive the mall’s attractiveness and widen the pool of potential customers towards younger generations and tourists. K.E. Group’s The Crystal Veranda exemplifies this with a unique food court concept affiliated with a famous culinary show, Mala Hotpot, and a viral Thai spicy salad restaurant, significantly increasing the centre’s foot traffic.

Higher occupancy rate: These experiential and content-worthy F&B tenants are not replacing the traditional family-oriented F&B tenants. Instead, developers have adopted innovative strategies, including the creation of new zones and the reconfiguration of spaces to cater for these new demands generated by the aforementioned F&B, resulting in higher overall occupancy. CentralWorld is one of the best examples where the operator rezoned the F&B area on the 7th floor to include popular eatery venues such as Sushiro and Haidilao, pioneering the blind spots and opening new opportunities for vacant space. 

These three advantages allow operators to cultivate sustainable long-term revenue streams. 

Figure 2: Prime grade historical net absorption and occupancy across Greater Bangkok, 2019 to 2023 YTD

Source: JLL Thailand Research and Consulting, 2Q23

According to JLL data, the trend of F&B tenant expansion to conceptual and experiential outlets, international brand entry and renowned local street-food venues combined have demonstrated improved occupancy rates and remarkable success within prime-grade retail centres (Figure 2). The trend is also expanding towards non-prime retail centres, e.g., community malls, neighbourhood centres, and discount stores, breathing new life into spaces that were previously deemed obsolete.

With supply influx over the next five years, Bangkok’s retail landscape should continue evolving, and operators are set to remain resilient. Developers/operators need to understand the trend and constantly alter with this fast-changing landscape, as only early adopters can maintain high competitiveness.