Wednesday, November 11, 2015

'Micro' Leasing Equals Big Opportunity for Local Eateries in the Age of Nouveau Food Courts

By Scott Landfried

I recently came across a small article in the November 2015 issue of Shopping Centers Today, which discusses the trend of micro leasing space to independent food tenants by developers seeking to offer both variety to customers and opportunity to owners. Typically, local small businesses and new restaurants are too small and precarious for developers to court them and sign a lease agreement, but micro leasing allows spaces to be broken down to small (500-1,000 SF) spaces, allowing for lower start-up costs and making expansion less prohibitive.

Fort Worth based, Trademark Property is one of these developers poised to "offer smaller spaces, lower startup costs, shorter term leases, free outdoor seating and generous tenant-improvement packages" (SCT, Center's 'micro' leasing strategy targets local eateries, Nov 2015).

This concept seems similar to Berg'n, a beer hall and food court that I've visited a few times since its 2014 opening in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights. Berg'n offers a common eating/drinking area, four small bays of local eateries, plus a full bar and a coffee shop within the same space. This makes for a stress-free one-stop shop.

This is not a one-size-fits all sort of recipe for shopping districts, but there continues to be greater community appreciation for and a desire to have more local small eateries in the mix. I don't see this form of nouveau food court going away any time soon.

The rising popularity of food carts, especially in cities like Portland and Austin as well as micro-restaurants - small, full-time operations with limited seating and a limited menu - raises an interesting question. Can this economic model might be replicated along other commercial districts?

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