Are Food Courts Dying?

The Lempert Report
December 08, 2022

Phil: We've talked a lot about food courts in shopping centers that they're dying. And there's a story in Forbes that Walter Loeb, very smart guy, has written that he talks about why shopping malls, frankly, are not doing that well when it comes to their food courts. He talks about Mr. Beast, we've talked about that, you know, a couple months ago, but also what he says, and I totally disagree with this, is the way to get the food courts back is gonna have white tablecloth restaurants, famous name chefs, more refined restaurants, that'll attract a wealthier and more upscale group of guests in a shopping mall. I totally disagree. I don't think that that's the situation. Would you go to your, you know, local shopping mall to have a fancy dinner? 

Sally: I don't think so, Phil, and I'll tell you what the main deterrent would be for me is, even if they have valet parking, the mall has a massive influx of cars in and out. And if I'm going for a high end dining experience, I don't wanna deal with traffic like that. But I would say what is interesting about this concept to me is I think about my tween son who now really likes to go to the mall. And so I take him to the mall and I see a lot of other tweens there. That's one thing they really like to do in teenagers. They like to go and walk around the mall with their friends. And so I'm thinking more like a bistro style cafe where parents can hang out and let their kids, you know, wander the mall and shop with their friends because they don't want their parents hanging around when they're doing that. And they're old enough to do that when they're 12 at most malls. So, you know, I'm thinking more of a bistro coffee cafe, have a little wine, have a little small plate snack while you wait for your kids to shop. 

Phil: Yeah, I think that's a much smarter, much better idea. And also, let's not forget that as the malls are dying, supermarkets are adding more food courts to supermarkets, Kroger in particular, and they're doing really well. And also the current food court, I think one of the reasons that it's not doing well is it's disgusting, it's filthy. I mean, the, you can't move the chairs, they're bolted into the ground. It's not a comfortable experience. So let's not forget why it's not working. It's not only that there's less people going to malls, but that whole food court experience isn't nearly as good as what it should be.