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In the book The Great Good Place, urban sociologist Ray Oldenburg suggests that, for a healthy existence, citizens must live in a balance of three places: domestic life, the workplace and social surroundings. Third places provide neutral ground for people to express themselves freely, socialize, relax, maybe eat or have a cup of coffee – anywhere where there is a feeling of belonging to a place. Examples of third places would be environments such as cafes, clubs, public libraries, bookstores, parks or even sports venues.

With the progress in vaccination programs and the reduction of social distancing rules, these places will have a fundamental role in the resumption of social life. Here, we spotlight global examples of what cities and companies are doing to attract consumers back.

Beans and Bells

Philippines – A unique café has opened at the ground belfry of a historic cathedral in Manila.

Why it matters:

Online delivery services, often laced with amazing deals, have made people forget about bricks-and-mortar cafés and restaurants when COVID-19 happened. Many stores and physical spaces are now trying to compete with speed and convenience by delivering a unique ambience or a transcendent experience. Food companies and brands are experimenting with mixed-use and repurposed spaces that offer more than dining to consumers. Parking lots, gardens and parks have also suddenly become experimental al fresco hubs for eating and drinking during the pandemic. Similar to the concept of the Belfry Café, formerly unconventional spaces such as old factories, warehouses and amusement parks are fair game for new venues for communal activities.

Key stat: Half of Filipino consumers say the statement ‘I love trying new experiences’ describes them very well.

Drink, Dine and Dodge

UK – Somerset House is opening its courtyard for drinking, dining and bumper car rides.

Why it matters:

Consumers seek excitement and ways to unwind which has been intensified due to the pandemic so brands have been finding ways to offer fun experiences such as virtual activities and at-home options during lockdowns. As restrictions ease, brands are using outdoor spaces to provide adventure or simply a place for consumers to gain some interaction with others. The addition of childhood activities or themes resonates with consumers as nostalgia offers a sense of comfort, pleasure and playfulness. The addition of unique sights, sounds and smells can make an experience even more memorable so brands are increasingly using these elements to increase appeal.

Key stat: Three in 10 UK adults were most looking forward to going out for a drink once the current social distancing measures were relaxed.

Pretty Sweet

South Korea – Beauty brand TirTir has launched an “Instagrammable” cosmetics store/dessert café in Hongdae, the epicentre of pop and indie culture in Seoul.

Why it matters:

Combining beauty, food and a photogenic environment is a recipe for success in the social media era. Many whimsical, creative products co-launched by cosmetics brands and food companies have already become highly coveted items, and young consumers are particularly drawn to these goods because of their novelty value. In a similar way, fun and unique retail spaces that go far beyond displaying products allow customers to feel a deeper connection to brands. They also make offline shopping for beauty products, which many people already consider a de-stressing activity, more entertaining and interactive.

Key stat: One in five South Korean consumers say that they are interested in beauty/grooming products that they can trial before buying.

Mini-golf on the Glass Roof

Norway – Shopping centre MoldeTorget is to transform its roof to create an outdoor café and mini-golf course.

Why it matters:

Bricks-and-mortar stores and physical spaces are having to compete with ever-growing online shopping which provides consumers with convenience, wide selections and endless deals. Many are trying to turn away from speed and convenience to differentiate themselves by focusing on creating pleasant and entertaining experiences or providing specific services or activities. Brands are experimenting with mixed, multipurpose spaces that offer more than products; where consumers can shop, socialise, relax, eat and drink and take part in activities, from mini-golf to fitness classes.

Key stat: More than half of Norweigan consumers say they seek fun in all aspects of life.

These Cabins Are Made For Working

Chile – Chilean city Las Condes, in the Santiago province, installs cabins in the park as offices for small businesses.

Why it matters:

Working from home has been a challenge for everyone. In 2020, we saw our homes being transformed into a work environment, and many people felt worn out because they were unable to mentally switch from work mode to home mode.

For those who share the house, the challenge is even greater, and with the restrictions imposed by governments with the COVID-19 crisis, it is even more difficult to find an isolated space where it is possible to have privacy, focus, and be productive. Thus, the cabins become a great option to focus on tasks and, consequently, reduce stress at home. Facilities such as quality Wi-Fi, air conditioning, and a good chair make life easier for those who use the cabin and bring a better quality of life in difficult times as in the current scenario.

Key stat: More than two in five of Chileans work from home regularly now, while only one in 10 did before 2020.