Consumers want real-world spaces to eat and socialize.

With more people buying online, retail spaces will increasingly serve as a “third space” that’s only partly about shopping (one of our Trends for 2011). In the food sector, as online services such as FreshDirect and Seamless.com expand, consumers are seeking real-world spaces where they can not only eat or buy food but meet people and enjoy unique experiences, as we found in a survey conducted for our February trend report on food.

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Our study, which polled 1,270 adults in the U.K. and the U.S., found that Millennials are most eager for third-space experiences at food outlets. More than 7 in 10 said they would be interested in special events at grocery stores or restaurants, and more than half liked the idea of communal tables and meeting other diners at restaurants. Gen Xers are somewhat less interested, while Boomers lag Millennials by more than 20 points on each question.

Some retailers are pitching themselves as more than just a place to pick up supplies, like Whole Foods, which recently debuted a series of comedy videos on YouTube that showcase the store as a spot for socializing and matchmaking. See our trend report, “What’s Cooking?,” for more on how the idea of the third space is manifesting in the food sector.