Malls find success in adding popular eateries to their menu

malls add restaurants

Malls are now adding popular restaurants

There are basically three truisms that now affect the construction of malls. People still love to get out of the house. People still love to shop. And people love to eat.

Malls owners are changing their mindset for how they choose tenants and many are now adding high-end or popular restaurants as a way to attract more shoppers.

That’s great for towns plagued with vacant space. That’s great for malls looking to pull shoppers back from their computers. That’s great for the economy as more restaurant workers, retail employees and construction workers get to work, more constructional materials and commercial site furnishings have to be manufactured and more stores get to stay in business.

At one time, malls seemed protective of their food courts and mainly focused on finding big anchor stores such as Sears, Macy’s or Dillard’s.

Those stores still have pulling power.

But with the popularity of the Food Channel and the rise of the “Celebrity Chef,” savvy mall managers are also changing their attitude and looking to add more fun restaurants to their mix of tenants.

Bobby Flay’s Burgers is moving into a mall. So is Jose Garces’ and his popular tacos. The Cheesecake Factory is opening up at mall locations. Same with Olive Garden, The Capital Grille and Morton’s Steakhouse. Buffalo Wild Wings is looking to jump into big-box shopping centers.

In fact, the real estate research company CoStrar Group reports that 15.8% of new leases signed this year in US shopping centers was for restaurants.

Restaurants add diversity to a mall visit

Basically, this goes back to a mantra you hear from mall developers quite frequently. (And you can see this on a grand scale at places like the Mall of America.).

When attracting consumers to a mall, it’s not just about the shopping. It’s all about the “experience.”

That experience is crucial with today’s surge of online shopping. And that’s the true competitive advantage that malls still retain – the feeling people get when they get out of their homes and walk around in a brightly decorated shopping facility with plenty of amenities, including a great place to eat.

Adding restaurants to malls is smart for a number of reasons.  For one, ingress and egress is much better. Some restaurants can get stuck in tight spaces that can actually deter people from driving there. Downtowns get crowded. And if a restaurant is hot, the area can get crowded real fast.

Secondly, there is plenty of parking. Free parking. That’s a nice benefit to a restaurant-goer on a tight budget. No need to park in a parking garage. Or find an open metered space. Or pay a valet.

Third, there’s plenty of open room. No tables are available right now? Then sit outside on a bench for a few minutes. Explore the mall and come back 30 minutes later.

Fourth, no one likes to see vacant stores anywhere. If a space is vacant, fill it with a Cheesecake Factory. Consumers will fill the factory and everybody wins.

Do some cross-marketing. Offer dining discounts to people who show mall receipts or retail discounts to people with restaurant receipts. That’s a win-win.

This strategy of mall diversification goes even further. Some malls are making their movie theaters more upscale. Others are adding additional amenities such as gyms, spas or nail salons. Tesla is even putting their small showrooms in malls.

Mall managers don’t want people to just think of a mall as just a place to buy a shirt or pair of pants. They want them to think of it as a place to hang out. Do a variety of things. Stay longer. And consequently, spend more money.

Some people are harping on the so-called demise of the mall. Sure, for a while perhaps too many malls were built too quickly in the wrong areas.

But malls or shopping centers in general are still alive and kicking. In fact, research shows mall traffic only dropped 1% in 2011, according to ShopperTrak.

Forrester issued a recent report that said 90.7% of retail purchases still occur in physical stores. ShopperTrak also reported that sales in apparel and accessory stores are up 4.5% from 2014.

Malls are undergoing a rebirth – retrofitting to add restaurants or including restaurants in the planning  stage. During these times, dining out at cool restaurants is hot. Adding more hot restaurants to a mall is one prize-winning recipe for everyone.

To read about how this trend is taking places at Philadelphia area malls, read this.

For a list of the Top 20 Malls in the US, click here.

Note: The Park and Facilities Catalog has been a leading supplier of commercial site furnishings for malls and retailers since 2001.





About Robert Caston

Robert Caston
Robert Caston oversees Content Marketing for The Park Catalog. Robert earned a degree in journalism and worked as a reporter for several newspapers. He is a connoisseur of fresh air and loves photographing nature whether he’s hanging out in a national park or a park down the street. With a passion for the outdoors, he is a strong advocate of green spaces and getting people out of the house. His favorite parks are the spectacular Grand Teton National Park in northwest Wyoming and the incredible Twin Rivers Park in Stuart, Fla.


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