D.C.'s Shift Toward Health Conscious Retail

For Americans, health and wellness is a major component of daily living, affecting people’s approach to everything from eating, exercise, sleep, mental health, and more.  It is no surprise, then, that the healthful reach extends into which restaurant consumers opt to try as well as what they choose when they get there.  According to the National Restaurant Association, more than seven in 10 adults are consciously choosing or attempting to choose healthier options while dining out than they did just two years ago.  The Washington, D.C. market is jumping on this trend, with locally sourced and natural farm-to-table fast-casual and full-service restaurants leasing substantial square footage throughout the region.
Restaurant owners and operators of both urban developments and suburban shopping centers in particular are sensing the public’s push.  In fact, eight in ten say their guests are paying closer attention to the nutritional content than they did in 2015*.  Recently, Rappaport had a hand in two wellness-centric retailers signing on the dotted line to open additional locations within Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia: HipCityVeg, a vegan fast-food concept, and B.Good, a fast-casual locally sourced lunch spot.  “It speaks to the health consciousness of the world today that did not exist as much until the late aughts.  Healthier options are being well-received, particularly in the D.C. market where it is a highly educated and higher income consumer overall,” says Pat O’Meara, Rappaport’s Director of Brokerage who handles the tenant representation for B.Good in the region.
The wealth of the area is considered a strong contributor to this wellness craze, with residents able to afford the pricier, yet more nutritious, fare.  D.C. has consistently ranked in the top five fittest cities in the United States, with neighboring metropolises such as Arlington sometimes unseating it for the top spot.  Other industries with a wellbeing focus, such as fitness studios and gyms, are capitalizing on a similar boom.  Rappaport’s Executive Director of Brokerage, Melissa Webb, assisted homegrown and national fitness retailers such as [solidcore] and Orangetheory Fitness find dozens of new locations in the market since 2016.
While having a health-conscious consumer and a market mirroring their demand is the model economies and cities strive to achieve, a destination where all healthy retailers are butting elbows for business begs the question: is this success sustainable?  Pat answers, “Adaptability is key.  Healthier food options are being offered in concepts that previously did not provide these items, such as McDonalds or Taco Bell.  Competition will inevitably play out and retailers need to be aware this shift is not purely about offering nutritious options.  It is about environmental impact and sustainability, concern about local retailers and farmers, or simply more inviting build outs and atmosphere.”
*National Restaurant Association