To stay ahead of the food and beverage game in Singapore, entrepreneurs are opening more than the usual standalone restaurants, cafes or quick-service food kiosks in a mall.
All-in-one venues, which offer diners a wide selection of food, craft beers, cocktails and wines, are all the rage, with the opening this year of Timbre+ at one-north, Mahota Commune in French Road and Plentyfull at Millenia Walk.
The newest one is the 10,000 sq ft Picnic on the third floor of Wisma Atria. The 270-seat all-in-one dining destination is an ambitious venture by Mr Cheng Hsin Yao, 31, founder of Omakase Burger, and his investors.
The project costs "more than $3 million" to set up and features three zones - the Picnic Park, the Flower Garden and the Beer Garden - all indoors.
The landscaping - complete with real potted plants and fresh flowers as well as astro-turf - is by acclaimed florist Harijanto Setiawan.
The lighting system from electronics company Philips ensures that the area mimics ambient outdoor lighting to suit the weather and time of the day. So during the evening, there is a warm sunset-like glow and the lights dim by night time.
There are 13 stalls - nine of which are fashioned as food trucks - selling a variety of cuisine from Japanese to Taiwanese.
Desserts are also available, as well as coffee in the day from Picnic Grounds bar and cocktails, beer and wine at night.
Noting that food is the "No. 1 lifestyle hobby" for diners, Mr Cheng says: "The business model for restaurants has not changed since the 1980s. Customers are very different and they have different demands. But I feel that restaurateurs have not responded.
"Plus, there is a movement towards the casualisation of gourmet food, as most of us are too busy to go for a three-hour, 10-course meal."
So adding to the highly Instagrammable food hall is, of course, equally photogenic food.
The average cost for lunch is $15 to $20 a person, while dinner is from $20. Prices for the same dishes for dinner are higher, but diners get bigger portions.
Offerings include Japanese stall Ezo's butadon ($14, lunch; $19, dinner), a rice bowl with three cuts of pork - belly, collar and loin - marinated in a tare sauce and grilled to order; Taiwan Treasures' Taiwanese beef brisket soup ($11, lunch; $15, dinner); and Rosti Haus' Japanese rosti ($13, lunch; $17, dinner) topped with teriyaki mayonnaise, bonito flakes and grilled chicken.
For something local, go for har cheong gai ($13, lunch; $19, dinner), prawn paste chicken, from Winner Winner Chicken Dinner.
On featuring food trucks, Mr Cheng says: "The gourmet food truck is very on trend."
Expect the menus to change frequently in line with food trends and seasonal produce.
There will also be local band performances as well as craft markets on weekends.
Mr Cheng also says stalls that are successful in Picnic could be spun off into standalone brands.
He is confident about opening at Wisma Atria, which already has foodcourt Food Republic and the four-month-old Japan Food Town on its fourth floor.
The mall also houses his Omakase Burger brand, which has another outlet at The Grandstand.
He says: "I'm a big believer in the clustering effect. People think competition, I think opportunity. Large spaces are hard to find nowadays, and this is also familiar ground for us. I think we now complete the food cluster."
• Picnic is open from 10am to 10pm daily at 03-15 Wisma Atria, 435 Orchard Road. For more information, call 6734-8352 or go to www.facebook.com/picnic.sg.
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