Report • 01.12.2014

Small food court ‒ big prospects

The longtime gastronomy concept right in the middle of the Knauber Freizeitmarkt (Hobby Shop)

It is among the trailblazers of gastronomy services offered right in the middle of the sales floor – at least when it comes to craft and hobby stores. For the past 14 years, the Knauber Freizeitmarkt in Bonn-Endenich, Germany, has offered its customers a variety of refreshments at a small bar in the middle of its store. iXtenso was on-site to see how this simple, but successful concept works.

"During the 90s, a gastronomy zone within the sales arena was not very typical," Kurt Schlesiger, who has been in charge of store design at this market for the past thirty years and who personally experienced its development, reminisces. "Back then, we took our inspiration from the already existing gastronomy area at the Modehaus Leffers, which we liked a lot," he remembers. The goal is to create a pleasant atmosphere that is geared towards getting the customer to remain a bit longer in the store. This concept proved successful.

From sales campaign to perennial favorite

In 1968, Knauber was the first craft and hobby market to open its doors. Back then, the central point where the so-called juice bar is located today served as a place to rest. There were only a few benches to make it possible for customers to take a break from shopping. That was until 1990 when the entire store was completely re-designed. The spot was intended to be first used to promote waffles during a sales campaign and thus convey the store’s theme "At Home with Knauber" (German: “Zu Gast bei Knauber”). The customers liked it, and the sales campaign turned into a standalone area with a counter and a few bar stools.

Initially, the area offered primarily freshly squeezed juices and fruits. Coffee, tea and small fruit salads, yoghurts and pastries were quickly added to the mix. "The options are intentionally limited, because customers don’t want any more choices during their shopping trip," explains Schlesiger. "Those, who want to order entire meals, for instance during lunch time, can visit our separate restaurant outside the showroom."

Little effort ‒ measurable effect

Knauber developed the ideas for the renovation on its own; planning took about three months. A drywall construction company then built a crescent-shaped back wall, while the counter was installed by a shopfitter within one-and-a-half weeks. The local prerequisites for the bar were already there and offered enough space to also store customers’ shopping carts for instance.

"There was essentially only one sticking point during the technical implementation," Schlesiger recalls. "The counter needed its own disposal drain for the sink. A pump that drains the water through the ceiling was installed. This installation was consequently the most expensive aspect of the facility. Those are simply costs that you incur with new construction." An additional ventilation system was not required.

The setting is straightforward in its appearance. Several refrigerators are used to always have fresh products on hand. The glass display cabinet is stocked with fresh fruits and carefully arranged beverage bottles. The waffle iron as well as the stylish espresso machine and coffeemaker are always ready. Straightforward, but effective.

A central place to feel good and gather ideas

For the customers to be able to pay right on-site is one advantage of the small bar in the center. Customers like the fact that they can have a quick cup of coffee without having to pay for it at the main cashier’s window. "Two associates service up to 200 customers per day; at peak times usually on Saturday, there are up to three people manning the bar. During those times, we sometimes make twice the sales," says Schlesiger. 

After the bar was previously sublet to a restaurant owner, it is now operated by the store and has significantly increased in sales. And although it is not detectable whether customers are actually just shopping at Knauber because of the juice bar, Schlesiger can definitively say that ten percent of customers use this service daily. Without a lot of effort, up to 600 Euros are added to the store’s sales each day. Nevertheless, from the operator’s point of view, it is not the sales, but rather the feel good character, the entertainment value and the longer length of stay of customers in the hobby market that make up the relevant functions of the food venue. 

Per customer request, several tables with chairs were quickly added to the bar stools. Especially older customers wanted to have this additional seating option. Indeed, the bar is an effective location to get a convenient overview of the hobby market’s range of products, because the main paths of the store converge in a star pattern – this includes the main axis between the important information desks. On the one side of the plaza is a sales area that features an exhibition area that changes every three weeks. On the opposite side is the seasonal market that gives another reason, especially during Christmas time to increase the variety at the bar with an additional waffle counter.

Overall, the juice bar is a food venue that achieves its effect with simple means. Customers are able to recharge and get inspired by the hobby market’s range of products.

Satisfied regulars and occasional shoppers

"The bar is a popular meeting spot for families," says Rozalia Schicker, who has worked at the juice bar for two years. “Many of my customers are regulars," she adds. As if to prove her point, she greets an older gentleman at the counter by name. Mr. Emonds agrees and adds with a smile: "When my wife strolls around the store I enjoy my cup of coffee right here." But there are also customers like Günter Karren. "I am actually only here, because my son Leon was thirsty. I often shop here, but I have never thought of stopping at the bar by myself before," he realizes while he drinks his freshly squeezed orange juice.

Anette Messdorf on the other hand often likes to take breathers at one of the tables: "The bar is always well frequented ‒ sometimes it is quite busy actually. I am glad that I can have a cup of tea so conveniently." Then she sets out for her next craft project and gets superglue, which she quickly finds in the department right behind her.  

Natascha Mörs; iXtenso.com

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