Leisure is our pleasure

New tasks at ECE for Jonathan Doughty: Besides foodservice he is now also responsible for leisure and placemaking.

Just over one year on from joining ECE, Jonathan Doughty has now taken responsibility for “leisure and placemaking” in the key account management team, expanding his role outside of the traditional foodservice remit he previously had. Below he tells us why food and leisure should go hand in hand in order to make shopping centers successful places for people in the long-run.

Jonathan, as a chef you obviously know about food, but what makes you an expert for leisure as well?

Having worked with many of the leisure operators in the past, both as an internal consultant and on leisure projects for developer clients, I know how important it is to plan and deliver food and entertainment, leisure and placemaking as “one strategy” – and not just renting out spaces for various activities. These things are going to be a bigger part of what we do and we need to work hard to understand what the market needs, what our guests need and how we can deliver it.

Do you have examples for us?

All in all, we will be seeing more cinemas, bowling, trampoline parks, attractions, themed spaces and leisure boxes at some places. Linking foodservice to these can lead to a better place and a stronger local economy for people to enjoy. It is well known that cinemas do better when surrounded by some restaurants that complete the “going out” experience. Of course, these require careful planning and strong investment that can provide a real benefit to the shopping place as well.

Trampoline parks are one example of leisure activities that can provide a benefit to shopping places.

Why is it so important to make this strategic decision now?

At ECE we are faced with the same challenges that all developers, owners, managers and landlords face – the emergence of the “new shopping center” economy and the further development of foodservice, leisure and other activities in our centers and shopping places. We want people to come who will spend both time and money – two very precious things in people’s lives, especially as we are all so busy now. A location that can provide a range of experiences in one place, for eating, drinking, shopping and playing is likely to still attract more people for longer than those that have a limited choice and offer. It doesn’t mean that every shopping center will have lots of leisure, but some will and as they develop so will the night time economy that is so important for the foodservice operators.

How will ECE implement this new approach?

We are bringing together in the team at ECE a varied and diverse group of people such as our design experts and architects as well as our leasing colleagues who can understand what is needed for the future and help design, create, lease and deliver it. Many of these team members are the same ones who work on the “We Love Food” programme and so they have detailed knowledge of how we have to work to create great places for our guests. It is a natural extension to also include leisure so that the planning for redeveloping or refurbishing a center has a clear and precise strategy for foodservice, leisure and placemaking. Sitting this alongside the retail strategy and ensuring that they are in synergy makes for a powerful and compelling future proposition for our guests, our assets and our investors. We consider all aspects and decide for every individual center what fits best.

Jumping, climbing and having fun – trampoline parks like JUMP House attract children as well as adults.

Are shopping centers prepared for a successful future?

I would like to think that we are ready and prepared for the future, but recent history has taught us that we should expect the unexpected. By creating our new team in this way, we think we are ready for the future. I am sure there is a lot of hard work and there will be a lot of discussion about what works and what doesn’t, but I also hope there will be a lot of fun as well. After all, leisure is a pleasure, creating experience, excitement and entertainment for our guests – now we just have to make it happen!

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