PARIS — As the City of Light vies with cross-Channel and cross-Atlantic rivals to keep hold of its status as a foodie capital, it may get a boost from two Paris neighborhoods betting on restaurants to draw foot traffic.
Retailers hailing from the brick-and-mortar tradition are among actors bulking up food offers as part of a wider attempt to bring back business lost to digital channels.
The ‘food hall’ phenomenon, already seen in other European cities, is gaining ground in Paris, noted Antoine Salmon, who runs Knight Frank’s retail operations in France. The commercial real estate market in the French capital is driven not only by the large amount of tourists visiting the city, but by locals as well, he said.
“Demand is also fed by spending from local consumers, notably in food and dining. This is shown by the expansion of organic specialists, convenience stores from large grocers or chains offering fast dining options,” he added.
Leading the charge to spruce up the area surrounding its BHV Marais department store, family-owned Galeries Lafayette is reshaping a historic district by refurbishing buildings, opening up passageways and courtyards and lining them with cafés and restaurants.
Its art foundation Lafayette Anticipations, which opened in March, serves as a centerpiece — the ground level is free and open to the public and features a Wild & The Moon café, known for mixed juices and locally sourced plant-based foods. The group spent 12 million euros on the Rem Koolhaas-designed building and has approved a budget of 20.7 million euros over five years for the venue.
Neighboring buildings will house the first French flagship of the Italian chain Eataly, due to open next year, a cocktail bar and a café as well as a fresh food market in a courtyard with pavement designed by Turner Prize-winning artist Martin Boyce. The Eataly franchise, operated by Galeries Lafayette, is expected to count seven locations and serve 2,500 meals a day through its various locations.
Meanwhile, across the city and deep in the Left Bank, Beaupassage opened in August, a pedestrian stretch linked to the Rue de Grenelle and dotted with restaurants and cafés, a cheese store, bread and pastry shops, and places to buy wine, ham, cigars and seafood, along with pre-prepared meals from Anne-Sophie Pic packaged in glass jars. Other Michelin-star holders with a presence on the passageway include Yannick Alléno, Olivier Bellin and Thierry Marx.
Led by real estate developer Emerige, the project entailed 40 million euros of construction investments to build the space, which features artwork, outdoor seating and dozens of trees, including Japanese maples and Himalayan birches. The architect, Franklin Azzi of the firm B&B Architects, maintained original façades for a more industrial look seen in cities like London and New York.
Executives from the nearby Left Bank institution Le Bon Marché have their eyes on the project.
“There are certainly people going through — a lot of people lunching at the Beaupassage,” said Laurence Dekowski, an executive at Le Bon Marché who is in charge of the recently refurbished children’s section of the Paris department store.
“It’s still too early to tell, however, which directions they will head, but it reinforces the neighborhood feel,” added Dekowski.
Real estate investors are also closely watching for signs of how the food element of these new urban revival projects generate traffic.
While dining can serve as an important draw for passing tourists or locals to spend more time, questions still remain as to the extent, notes Peter Epping, senior managing director and fund manager of the Hines Pan-European Core Fund (HECF).
“The tricky thing with the food offering is to understand just how varied it is and how much of a magnet it really is. It’s something we’re getting cautious on in assessing how high is the quality, really, because we see in the U.K…that quite a few of the chains that have expanded too quickly are suffering,” he said.
“So it’s not that [food and beverage] is always the salvation for every retail location,” he continued. When it is attractive, however, “then it can be a real catalyst for the area.”