Gourmet food halls sprouting up in Seoul
Published : Aug 12, 2011 - 18:19
Updated : Aug 16, 2011 - 14:10
Long ago, Korean department stores perfected the art of the all-in-one-stop.
Upper floors catered to the shopaholic with a bevy of clothes, accessories and beauty products. Top floors boasted restaurants, and basement floors a food court and supermarket.
It looked like that set-up was the only way to do premium dining and grocery shopping in one-go. Then, the gourmet food hall arrived.
Starting May, a revamped version of prominent French fine food brand, Fauchon, rolled out in Lotte department stores throughout the country.
Then, in late July, food and media giant CJ Group launched its take on the slow food shopping experience with CJ Foodworld in northern Seoul.
Next up is Dean and DeLuca.
According to Hwang Kyung-sun, 31, the director for Dean and DeLuca’s Korean business, last October Shinsegae signed a contract to bring in the famous American gourmet food store chain.
The first store is slated to open in Shinsegae Gangnam this September.
Once that happens, it will be interesting, indeed, to see how consumers respond.
If Fauchon and CJ Foodworld are any indication of local demand for well-branded, all-in-one food stops, then it looks like Seoul is all for it.
At Sogong-dong Lotte’s Fauchon, a sleek black space is devoted to a fashionablypackagedarray of jams, teas, oils, chocolates, cookies, wine and other condiments. (Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald)
On a weekday morning, Sogong-dong Lotte’s Fauchon is teeming with customers selecting bread, lining up to order coffee and drinks, and taking up seats on the stools in the shop.
On a weekday afternoon at CJ Foodworld, which spans two whole floors, shoppers populate the 19 restaurants, cafes and shops scattered throughout the area.
CJ brand communication lab executive director Noh Hee-young, 48, attributes this trend to a movement towards increased transparency in the food-making process.
“People want to see how it is made,” she explained.
CJ Foodworld reflects this philosophy.
The first floor has a farm where soybeans and rice plants are grown. Specially-equipped rooms will hold cooking classes for both children and adults. Restaurants feature open kitchens, and groceries, cheese, charcuteries and wine are sold on the basement floor.
CJ Foodworld takes the gourmet food hall concept to gargantuan proportions. The supermarket corner on the basement floor is just one small slice of a two-story space devoted to food. (Ahn Hoon/The Korea Heral)
If CJ Foodworld interprets the food hall as a sort-of open community where people can purchase ingredients, cook and dine together, then Fauchon seems to view it as a cafe-bakery-retail combo.
At Sogong-dong Lotte, Fauchon is divided into two areas.
A sleek black space is devoted to a beautifully-packaged line-up of jams, teas, oils, chocolates, wine and other condiments, all emblazoned with the Fauchon label. A golden space boasts an array of pastries, bread and cakes, along with a bar where coffee, juices, hot chocolate and Fauchon’s teas can be ordered. Stools offer minimal seating for patrons.
“Plans are to have a larger cafe space in the Jamsil Lotte Fauchon,” said Jang Seung-ho, 37, PR director for Bliss ― Fauchon’s Korean licensee.
According to Jang, there are no immediate plans to bring in a large-scale model.
While there is a store in Paris that houses a cafe, restaurant and grocery store, Jang said “right now the primary focus is on cafes and restaurants.”
For now, Fauchon is a micro-food hall, combining the eating, drinking, product purchasing experience into a small-scale space.
On the flipside, CJ Foodworld takes the hall to mammoth proportions, recreating the European market vibe on the first floor with high ceilings and an intertwined mish-mash of sandwiches, ice cream, cakes, bread and hand-drip coffee. The basement floor is a veritable arcade of restaurants and a smattering of small shops and specialty corners.
Do not mistake this set-up for a posh, over-the-top endeavor. According to CJ’s Noh, Foodworld is not high-end, and the pricing targets the masses.
Yet there is no shaking the gourmet vibe pervading the space. Beautifully fondant-iced cakes can be reserved at least a week in advance. Coffee beans are roasted on the premises. Noodles are made fresh from dough that has been aged for 26 hours.
The cheese section sells everything from beurre d’Isigny to high-grade Iberico ham and tubs of ricotta.
While Foodworld dabbles in Western cuisine and products, there is a distinctly homegrown aura to the place, something that Noh takes pride in. Noh emphasized CJ’s ability to tailor the food hall concept to Koreans.
“We are not worried about Dean and DeLuca,” said Noh, who believes that these days consumers subscribe to many brands and therefore will go to both places.
Noh also stressed that Dean and DeLuca boasts a Western aesthetic in contrast to CJ’s Korean roots.
Indeed, Dean and DeLuca does hail from America.
Dean and DeLuca’s Hwang, however, revealed that Korean palates and preferences are being taken into account, just not to the point where it would compromise the authenticity of the gourmet food retailer.
According to Hwang, the first store will offer premium and artisanal groceries along with an espresso bar and a deli. A catering business is set to follow in the “near future.”
Fauchon is located in 12 Lotte department stores throughout Korea.
CJ Foodworld is located near Dongdaemun History and Culture Park Station Line 2, 4, 5, Exit 5. For more information visit www.cjfoodworld.co.kr or call 1577-9622.
By Jean Oh (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Jan 20, 2019