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Quality Food is Bringing Shoppers to the Mall

Recent research conducted by commercial real estate services firm Jones Lang LaSalle presented at ICSC’s RECon (the largest gathering of retail real estate professionals in the world), has found that 40% of mall customers choose the mall they want to shop at based on the food options at a particular mall.

The study surveyed over 1,500 adults in the United States in March of 2019. Research found that in addition to a large number of shoppers being drawn to a certain mall for its culinary fare, 38% of those shoppers are looking for healthy food options and that once they are there they tend to stick around and spend more money. The shoppers who dine at these malls are spending around 15% more money with each trip to the mall. Transactions at malls with quality food and beverage establishments are as much as 25% higher than other malls.

Just over a decade ago, in 2006, the average mall in America carried about 10% of its total retail space as food services and entertainment. In 2018, according to research conducted by Cushman and Wakefield commercial real estate services, the average mail housed about 20% food and entertainment and they expect the percentage to grow.

These food offerings are not like the traditional mall food courts of the ‘90s, where shoppers came to the mall mainly for the stores and might stop in as a convenience when they get hungry. Now that a large number of shoppers are coming to the mall for the food first, we see food halls replacing food courts.

A food hall is like the more sophisticated older sister of the food court. The food found here is trendier and healthier and can even rotate in and out of because kitchen space is shared and can allow for flexible month to month agreements. These are not places like Sbarro pizza bar, Cinnabon, Orange Julius, and Auntie Anne’s pretzels that were huge favorites of the past; they offer on trend meals you may see popping up all over social media feeds and YouTube channel reviews like Tapas, fancy burgers, and seafood. These food halls can now morph quickly to meet the changing tastes of consumers.

Some of the nation’s most popular and successful malls have taken on the food hall strategy and are finding it a big win. Hudson Yards in New York has a large food hall centered on Spanish-themed food in its lowest level. Esplanade at Aventura mall in Aventura, Florida is constructing a Latin American themed food hall called Mixtura Market.

Joe Coradino, CEO of PREIT-a retail real estate investment trust and mall owner, says that now the company carries 25% of their portfolio as dining and entertainment when just five years ago they may not of ever talked about giving so much attention to these industries.

Cushman and Wakefield say there were around some 120 food halls in place or being built in the year 2016, and they predict that by the end of next year that number will quadruple to 450 food halls across the country, mostly in malls.

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