Vegetable-based diets are becoming more popular. The trend can also be seen in shopping centres, where vegetarian restaurants are responding to customer demand. Diverse restaurant and cafe concepts attract new customers to shopping centres.
Vegetarian food is said to be one of the hottest food trends at the moment. The news has been filled with stories about the health benefits of reducing meat consumption, inspiring interest in vegetarian food even among omnivores. The trend can also be seen in shopping centres. Lars Eklundh of Sponda, Shopping Centre Manager at Forum, recognises the phenomenon.
“I would not say that it is only a question of a vegetarian food trend. I think it is more a question of an increase in the popularity of vegetable-based foods, which has been happening over the past 4–5 years. This has meant, for example, an increase in the selection of salads offered at almost all restaurants and cafes and, in addition to this, we have seen the arrival of some concepts based entirely on vegetarian or vegan food.”
Shopping centres have to constantly follow the trends in consumer demands and develop their service offerings accordingly. For cafes and restaurants focusing on vegetarian food, a location in a shopping centre also offers the opportunity to expand their customer base.
“The location in the shopping centre, in such a central place, is very important for us. It is easy to find us and the location is accessible,” says Jyri Järvi, CEO of the Kippo fast food restaurant, which operates at Kukontori in Forum.
Together with his older brother Lasse, Järvi founded Kippo’s Iso Roobertinkatu location, which originally focused on frozen yoghurt, a popular treat in the United States, for example. Nowadays, Kippo is a family company that sells vegan sandwiches, smoothies and juices at its Forum location. All items served at Kippo are prepared to order in the restaurant’s open kitchen.
“Because we make everything to order, it is important to have large enough order volumes. For this reason, the location in a shopping centre is absolutely an advantage,” says Järvi.
Quality food at the forefront
Although a growing number of customers are becoming interested in vegetable-based food, there are some risks involved with overemphasising veganness. For some people, “vegan” sounds too extreme or conjures up an image of flavourless food that leaves you hungry.
For example, the word “vegan” does not appear in Kippo’s materials, even though all its products are completely vegetable-based.
“The fact that we serve vegan food is important, but we don’t want to make a big show of it. We serve absolutely all customers and want to serve good food above all,” says Ella Järvi, Jyri’s sister and one of the owners of Kippo. She goes on to explain that among vegans, information about places to get good food spreads easily by word of mouth, so separate vegan marketing is not necessary.
The Järvi siblings believe there are many reasons for the increase in the demand for vegetable-based and vegan food.
“People are well aware of the problems associated with food production and the health impacts of different foods, and as the selection has broadened in cafes, for example, people know to demand more from vegan food,” Ella Järvi considers.
A broad customer base
Forum’s customer base is very diverse, a fact that is also reflected in the shopping centre’s restaurants and cafes. Some customers even come to Forum just to go to Kippo, for example.
“Tourists in particular have found their way here, because they have read about it on the travel website Yelp or the vegan site Happy Cow,” Ella Järvi says.
“And families with children are also happy to come here, because the place is very easily accessible with a pram,” she continues.
Lars Eklundh agrees with Järvi about the impact of places like Kippo on the visitors to the shopping centre.
“The increased selection of salads and vegetable-based food options has ensured that customers stay at shopping centres, and have also played a part in attracting new customers. Vegan food concepts are a relatively new phenomenon, and they have brought new customers to shopping centres,” he says.
Although food trends can certainly be seen in the offerings of shopping centres, selections will not be constructed only based on the latest fads.
“In places visited by a lot of customers, there has always been a diverse service offering and this will continue to be very important. For this reason, there is no shortage of demand for concepts other than vegetarian and vegan places, although their popularity is, indeed, growing. I believe that the selection of light and healthy food will continue to increase over at least the next 2–4 years,” says Lars Eklundh.
Jyri Järvi also believes there will be more and more demand in the future for places like Kippo that offer high-quality, healthy vegetable-based foods.
“I certainly don’t think more traditional fast food places are going anywhere, but the service offering will probably become more diversified so that everyone can find a place for them,” he reckons.