Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield signed over 50 new occupiers across its two London sites in 2021, almost half (23) of which were in the hospitality and competitive socialising sectors with a number set to launch at Westfield London and Westfield Stratford City over the coming months.

At Westfield London, Salt Yard Charcuterie and Tapas will open in Q1. The second quarter will see the opening of Sixes Cricket, the world’s first social entertainment cricket concept and City Bouldering, with state-of-the-art bouldering walls, an escape room, cafe and a shop – two examples of the growing competitive socialising subcategory.

Lokma

At Westfield Stratford City, Ghara Indian street food and fresh kebab concept, BabaBoom, open this quarter. Additionally, The Bat & Ball ping pong and drinks and dining concept has signed a permanent lease for their unit on The Street.

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Kate Orwin, Leasing Director for Westfield UK & Italy, said: “It’s really encouraging to see Britain’s hospitality sector battling back after a challenging couple of years and such exciting brands opening in our centres. We believe there’s real pent-up demand among consumers, who will be further buoyed by the recent relaxation of covid rules and are now looking to take the opportunity to reconnect with friends and family over a few drinks or dinner.

“One of the key trends we saw during 2021 was the growth of the innovative fast-food category.  Brands like Thunderbird Chicken, Neat Burger and Popeyes are elevating, what we traditionally think of as fast food, to a new culinary level while still offering the convenience and affordability that consumers love and expect. This trend is showing no signs of abating during 2022 with Ghara Indian street food and BabaBoom kebabs set to open in the coming months.”

Commenting on hospitality’s contribution to such positive growth, Kate Nicholls, UKHospitality CEO, said: “It’s incredibly positive to see such exciting and innovative brands investing in new physical spaces in London with a number of first to the UK concepts choosing to launch at Westfield London and Westfield Stratford City. It has been an unprecedentedly challenging time for the entire hospitality sector, but we’ve seen from previous economic slumps that hospitality has the potential to outstrip national economic growth and catalyse wider recovery, as consumers continue to cherish the opportunity to socialise together.”

The new signings contribute to a successful 12 months of leasing activity for Westfield London and Westfield Stratford City’s owner URW, which has seen the number of F&B and Entertainment tenants across the Group’s European centres rise year on year, consistent with strong consumer demand for experiences.

Across Europe, a number of important deals signed in these sectors include Gamestate (an arcade gaming concept) in Westfield CentrO, Youseum in Westfield Mall of the Netherlands, Five Guys in Westfield La Part-Dieu and a multi-site deal with Lobsta in Westfield Les 4 Temps, Westfield Forum des Halles, and Westfield Vélizy 2.

In the UK , other major hospitality brands that have invested in Westfield London and Westfield Stratford City during the last 12 months include the Big Easy, a 250-seater steak, lobster and seafood restaurant, Lokma, a Turkish restaurant and shisha bar, the UK’s first Popeyes Louisiana Fried Chicken and Lewis Hamilton-backed plant based fast food brand, Neat Burger.

Competitive socialising comes to the fore

‘Competitive socialising’ has been a growing subcategory within the hospitality sector, as customers look to combine the quality food and drink they would enjoy on a typical night out, with everything from cricket and mini golf to baseball and beer pong. This category has seen significant growth and is another example of Westfield centres as lifestyle destinations focussed on experience, whether that be retail or in the dining and entertainment space. URW’s own ‘How We Shop’ research indicates that 59% of consumers expect more than half of retail space will be devoted to experience rather than product by 2025, while 81% of customers globally are willing to pay more for innovative retail experiences.

City Bouldering

Other new openings coming up include Kingsley Heath, the South African fashion brand’s first UK store, and the recently announced 11,000 sq ft Hamleys flagship store – both at Westfield London – and Sleep 8 at Westfield Stratford City. In addition, circa 125 lease renewals were agreed in 2021 as retailers and dining and leisure concepts continue to choose the number one and two shopping destinations in the UK.