Planning approval to build a £180m 325,000 sq ft extension of the centre in Essex was obtained last year with improvements set to include 40 new retail units and the £9m redevelopment of the centre's existing food court.
The first stage of the work, which will start at the end of this month, will see the creation of varying sized units - from 400 sq ft to 3,000 sq ft - to allow a range of fast food and casual dining operators to set up shop there.
Intu plans to install pod seating and intelligent light fittings to recognise the time of day or night and change accordingly as well as include custom-made furniture, pendant lighting and high-end designer chairs.
The new food court will operate alongside the centre's lake-side dining area The Boardwalk, which houses 12 restaurants and the new Circle 360 Champagne & Cocktail bar, which will open within the heart of the centre in October.
Jonathan Ainsley, asset management director, said part of the reason to develop the food court was to increase dwell time at the shopping centre which has 25 million visits per year.
He said: “When we launched the Boardwalk, we really challenged the traditional preconceptions of what a shopping centre dining experience should look like and it was a great success. Now we’re doing it again with our new food hall and the innovative redesign will completely change our customers perceptions about food courts.
“We put our customers at the heart of everything that we do. The food hall refurbishment is the first step towards delivering for our customers a completely upgraded catering experience at intu Lakeside. It is evidence of the importance of having a vibrant and varied catering mix which our research shows extends customer dwell time by two thirds.”
Improvement plans for the rest of the centre include further development of its entertainment and health and fitness facilities and the creation of a £5million hotel and restaurant. Discussions to secure a hotel operator are said to be still progressing.