Major art galleries and museums are offering increasingly innovative dining options, benefiting both the destination and the consumer.

It seems that food-for-fuel no longer cuts the mustard for those enjoying a cultural outing. What used to be the domain of essential subsistence, standard catering and secondary spend, is now about creating compelling collaborations, driving footfall and delivering revenue contribution.

Cultural institutions are becoming more sophisticated in integrating food and beverage as part of their proposition; selecting the right partnership for the visitor profile, to complement the overall destination, is crucial.

At the premium end, the restaurant at New York’s Museum of Modern Art has been awarded two Michelin stars, while the nearby Metropolitan has recently partnered with an acclaimed chef and restauranteur to create a coveted destination proposition. Closer to home, Tate Modern boasts a top floor restaurant overlooking the Thames, with the gallery giving a certain amount of added panache.

Somewhat more casual, the Hepworth Wakefield has created a sense of place, showcasing local producers in its modern eatery, which sells seasonal, Yorkshire sourced food and drink. Whereas others have opted to lease space to recognised brands. For example, if you take a trip to the Natural History Museum, the National Theatre, or Oxford’s Ashmolean, you will find Benugo’s gourmet cafes. Whereas Peyton & Byrne provides its premium bakery-restaurant fare to visitors of the Imperial War Museum and the National Gallery.

We have been taking a closer look at how museums and galleries are collaborating with F&B operators, and it is clear that the benefits can be mutual:

For the museums and galleries…

  • By selecting an F&B partner with the appropriate fit, a restaurant can support and complement the core values and image of a gallery or museum, in line with their exhibitions and installations
  • A compelling restaurant proposition can help drive footfall; potentially becoming an attraction in its own right, rather than being distinctly secondary to the culture
  • The additional revenue stream can stabilise income and broaden visits across different times of day; extending into the evening, outside of core museum and gallery hours

For the F&B operator….

  • There is a certain brand kudos from being present within a gallery or museum, resulting in image enhancement and a positive impact on brand equity
  • For brands typically found on the high street or in shopping centres, a location within a cultural institution constitutes a new channel and route to market – a window to the brand in front of a different customer base
  • Gallery and museum visitors represent a relatively captive audience, often with very little immediate competition within the site

The symbiotic nature of this relationship suggests that this is a trend that is set to continue, both in the UK and further afield.

Patrick Cox