Food and The City.

Blog image
Last modified on 03/07/2018

Once upon a time, food and eating out in Britain would conjure up thoughts of The Wimpy Bar and the local ‘greasy spoon’. However fast forward and Britons' palates have become much more discerning.

We are now spoilt for choice by the selection of food offers in our cities. A multicultural population means that practically every nationality of food is on offer, from Nepalese to Armenian and there are venues to suit every budget. 

People are enjoying eating out more than ever before. Coupled with this, the rise in importance of sustainable food sources, healthy eating and health and wellbeing has had a dramatic impact on the culinary landscape of our towns and cities.


So what are the trends in food that the industry should be alive to? The main ones include:

  • Healthy eating – probably the fastest growing food trend; consumers are looking for simple, natural and locally sources food. Key is also having a story behind the food you’re eating which especially lends itself well to artisan type produce.

  • Street Food – seen as trendy alternative to fast food outlets. However, the rise in street food in edgier urban environments has become slower whilst interestingly at the same time Michelin type food has got faster.

  • Grab and Go – this is the original take-away concept but with better quality food often from restaurants. Jamie’s Italian at Gatwick for example does more on Grab and Go than in the restaurant.

  • Personalised – The experience of eating is becoming more important; the consumer enjoys the theatre of the preparation and seeing everything prepared in front of them.

  • Premiumisation – this is the the concept of making basic food like milk and eggs a premium product.


Although these trends are evolving, the demand for better quality food from sustainable sources will not change. The change in our eating patterns and the desire for better quality with more entertainment has repercussions on the design of our retail places.

Long gone does the customer want the tired format of vendors at food stalls or service counters with a common dining area and food courts dominated by McDonald’s or Subway. The quality of the space is key and in the future the food offer is more likely to be similar to food halls, many with a strong street market influence with take away food freshly prepared where you can sit and eat in smaller more discreet areas. 

Alongside the Grab and Go outlets will be fresh fruit, vegetables, fish and meat counters where you can either purchase items or have them cooked for you there and then. A one stop food destination.


Retail places are continually evolving and looking at innovative ways to entice the customer and increase dwell time. The quality of the environment and space dedicated to food will be paramount to this success.

Many food concepts from across the pond incorporate other activities such as raising awareness of food education alongside the food and restaurants.

In Toronto there is a kitchen school attached to the food hall which hosts themed evenings such Japanese cooking, Italian dinner parties and old fashioned cookery lessons for teenagers taught healthy food options. The school is booked out months in advance which indicates the level of importance the customer is putting on learning more about food, cooking and cultures.



A number of new food concepts are already changing the landscape both in retail places and citycentres. In store, Eataly is a new concept where you can be entertained, eat, do your weekly food shopping, buy presents and have a coffee. It is a one stop destination which provides everything the consumer might want under one roof. It puts leisure in to shopping and is a destination for quality food and entertainment.  

In city centres, street food markets have been often in areas ripe for regeneration where there is a strong community presence. Mercato Metropolitano revolves around individuals: small-scale farmers, local producers and members of the local community increasing social and cultural values through the regeneration of local areas.

The ethos of Mercato Metropolitano is to raise awareness about sustainability, environmental, economic and social aspects of the community:

  • Learning how food is grown – in the on-site urban garden
  • Finding out more about the wide ranging producers through live demonstrations events Enjoying music, art exhibitions, and other kinds of live performance by offering a free platform for as yet undiscovered artists
  • Watching specially curated films and cultural programs in the on-site arts centre/cinema.
  • Looking after physical wellbeing in the Body Studio fitness studio / boxing gym.
  • Proving affordable workspace and social space for the emerging entrepreneurial community.
  • Getting involved with local community groups.
  • Understanding how food safety, environment, sustainability and social inclusion are the foundation for a possible future.
  • Following courses, classes on all these themes, on how to prepare healthy meals, or the perfect pizza or, simply to learn how to read an ingredient label on products.
  • A commitment to sustainability is maintained along the entire value chain: recycled materials, no-frills layout, zero-waste operating and streamlined logistics, along with the selection of neglected spaces to assist in the redevelopment and requalification of the area.


Tessa O'Neill
Town Planning Director
BDP Architects


Tags: Technology & Innovation