By guest author Kate Krader from Bloomberg News
November 18, 2022
(Bloomberg) — Over its 170-year-plus history, Harrods has always paid attention to food. The luxury shopping institution got its start as a grocery store that sold tea and biscuits, and adapted early to the food hall game.
Still, the iconic brand has generally viewed its dining spaces as places to refuel, maybe with a cup of coffee and a (good) slice of cake, before getting back out on the shopping floor. Until earlier this year, diners were kicked out of the building when the store closed at 7 p.m.
Times have changed. The store is now investing heavily in destination dining throughout the property. In the past year and a half, Harrods has opened a handful of notable dining and drinking spots, including Harrods Social by Jason Atherton and a patisserie of luxurious treats from celebrated French baker Angelo Musa. In 2024, Harrods will become home to another notable chef from a Michelin-starred restaurant when Dave Pynt, owner of Singapore’s famed barbecue spot Burnt Ends, opens his first spot there outside the city-state.
“Harrods views restaurants as a critical part of our business and future,” says Ashley Saxton, the store’s director of restaurants and kitchens. “We’re using restaurants to fuel the store’s long-term success.”
The highest-profile dining spot at Harrods for the foreseeable future will be Studio Frantzen, slated to open on Nov. 28 on the store’s top two floors. The restaurant is the first UK outpost for Bjorn Frantzen, one of the few chefs in the world with two restaurants with three Michelin stars: his eponymous flagship in Stockholm and Zén in Singapore.
The airy, 112-seat Studio Frantzen is dominated by booths that run down the center of the restaurant and line a wall. A long counter fronts the open kitchen, and a contemporary statement chandelier hangs from the double-height ceiling. On the table are hand-painted steak knives and eye-catching, blackened, hand-carved butter knives.
The London restaurant, which will be helmed by executive head chef Marcus Rohlen, represents a relative value for Frantzen fans. The tasting menu at the Stockholm flagship starts at around 4,200 Swedish krona ($395, or £334). At Studio Frantzen, the Swedish- and Asian-influenced menu will offer à la carte options starting at £4, including a ”Swedish” service topped with fermented lingonberries for £5. Starters such as sake-cured mackerel ceviche with ponzu strawberries fetch £18. Other first courses include tuna and red deer tartare with wasabi cultured cream, and cold-poached Cornish lobster with pink peppercorns and Tahitian vanilla. Among the mains are veal minute “ma-la” with kampot pepper jus and crispy shiso, and a Japanese twist on Caesar salad with miso-togarashi dressing and soy-braised pork belly.
Pride of place in the Frantzen kitchen is a wood-burning fireplace that produces the majority of entrees, including salmon from the Faroe Islands, blasted over fire and then accompanied with finger lime, sea buckthorn and beurre blanc and quail cooked with dried spruce and bee pollen. A Frantzen specialty is the £70 dish it calls “Sweden vs Japan”: braised Swedish dairy cow beef brisket (salted, preserved, braised and cooked for eight hours) served alongside grilled Japanese wagyu with lemongrass jus and Japanese mustard. Desserts include chocolate and mint After Eight tart and a delightful sounding lingonberry marshmallow sorbet soft-serve style, with black currant syrup and licorice meringue.
The concept of an accessible Frantzen restaurant has appeal: In a little over 24 hours after opening up reservations, Studio Frantzen logged some 1,500 bookings from all over the world. (It maintains that walk-ins will be accepted.)
Along with the restaurant are two bars, including one on the rooftop with panoramic views of the city from Big Ben to the London Eye. It will specialize in drinks made with Scandi spirits and ingredients and will be open until midnight to bring in Knightsbridge revelers.
“We want to convert as much footfall as possible,” Saxton says of attracting Harrods shoppers to the restaurants. Before the pandemic, Saxton calculates, only 8% of people in Harrods were eating there. (The figure doesn’t include food hall shoppers.) “Now, at least 20% of shoppers touch the restaurant in some way,” he says. That has translated into sales for the store. Harrods restaurant sales are up 44% for the first three-quarters of this year, compared to the same time period in 2019. That’s despite the fact that there are two fewer restaurants than at that time. “We’re seeing 700 bookings per day,” says Saxton, walk-ins not included. He declined to provide revenue figures. On Oct. 30, the store announced a £51 million pretax profit in 2021, with an increase in sales of 35.5%; Managing Director Michael Ward said in the release that investment in Harrods, including its restaurants, was an important part of its return to profitability.
Revenue from the restaurant will come close to tripling in the five-year period from 2020 to 2025, according to Saxton, notwithstanding the pandemic. “We are already well on track to achieve it,” he says.
The concept of using restaurants to attract customer traffic has been going strong for decades at hotels and at casinos aiming to attract high-rolling customers. Now, says Saxton, “we’re really leaning into it for retail.” The store has launched multiple luxury brand-name drinking and dining spots, including the inaugural Jimmy Choo Café and Europe’s first Tiffany Blue Box Café, which scored 1,100 bookings in one day. “We speak with LVMH regularly,” Saxton adds. “Restaurants have become the new entry vehicle for luxury brands. Gen Z is spending money in fashion and in dining.”
Destination restaurants have become a fixture in department stores lately. Earlier this year, Selfridges in London opened the ambitious vegan restaurant Adesse, from chef Matthew Kenney, with such dishes as avocado tikka with potato bread. New York has welcomed a number of high-profile restaurant openings in Midtown, most notably the Philippe Starck-designed L’Avenue at Saks Fifth Avenue, an offshoot of the Costes brothers’ Paris haunt that’s become famous for its guest list. (Gigi Hadid recently celebrated the launch of her new fashion line Guest in Residence there.) When Nordstrom opened its first New York store by installing seven restaurants featuring notable chefs from Seattle like Tom Douglas and Ethan Stowell. And the glamorous Goodman’s Bar in Bergdorf Goodman offers a place for caviar and potato chips and high-powered Champagne.
Restaurants haven’t been able to save all the high-end shopping venues. Neiman Marcus opened to great acclaim in the USD 25 billion Hudson Yards development in 2019 on Manhattan’s West Side. The three in-house dining spots and bar were, like the store, often empty, even before the start of the pandemic. One year later, the restaurants and store closed.