Emerging ConceptsRestaurant Experience

Shopping Centers Transformed by Leading Restaurant & Entertainment Concepts

Today’s malls and shopping centers are known by many names, including lifestyle and multi-use or mixed-use centers. More often, these centers are anchored by restaurants and entertainment or experiential concepts

Let’s explore what this means to the industry and the brands that are making the leap into the mixed-use arena. 

What Is an Anchor?

According to Oxford Languages, an anchor is a “heavy object attached to a rope or chain and used to moor a vessel to the sea bottom.” In many ways, an anchor tenant moors the shopping center—it’s the foundation and is critical to its success—attracting customers, visitors, and other tenants and increasing traffic and overall sales.

It keeps the ship from drifting. And, because of its extreme importance, it garners the privilege of larger spaces for a lower rent.

Shopping Centers Turn Mixed-Use Destinations

The transformation began several years ago as shopping increasingly moved online. A report by Coresight Research in 2020 estimated that about 25% of the nation’s malls would close by 2025. A 2023 study by IPX 1031 found that 68% of Americans live within one hour of a dead mall, and almost 2 in 3 Americans want to see a mall revival. They miss the convenience, the food courts, movie theaters, stores, socializing, and window shopping.

Many mixed-use centers attach residential properties or, at the very least, are in walking distance. These properties are designed as spaces where people can live, work, and plan, all within a condensed area. Often laid out like urban promenades instead of indoor shopping centers, they provide a mix of co-working spaces, shopping, and activities like dine-in theaters, spas, upscale restaurants, and entertainment brands. They are an integral part of the community.

ModernRetail reported on Cocowalk, a mall in Miami’s Coconut Grove neighborhood that Federal Realty transformed into a mixed-use destination. To adopt a more modern experience with a Latin influence, they replaced the Cheesecake Factory with PLANTA Queen, a vegan eatery. Some of the other eateries and entertainment include Botanico Gin & Cookhouse, a luxury cinema, and Mister 01 Extraordinary Pizza. Their boutique office building comes with a rooftop bar and event space.

Avalon in Alpharetta, Georgia, is a sustainably designed 86-acre community with 570,000 square feet of retail, a premium theater, a full-service hotel, single-family residences and luxury rental homes, and a Class A office. It’s a hub of living, working, entertainment, dining, and shopping. A few of the many chef-driven restaurants that call it home include Oak Steakhouse, Rumi’s Kitchen, and MF Bar.

Other well-known lifestyle centers are Scottsdale Quarter, Boston’s Seaport Square, One Paseo in San Diego, The Yards in Washington, DC, and Seaside in Seaside, Florida.

In 2022, Dallas-based Venture Investment Partners, specializing in “Venturetainment,” purchased The Shire at CityLine, a mixed-use space south of Plano. Its biggest draw? Restaurants, including the likes of Anaya’s Seafood, Silver Fox Steakhouse, Apollonia’s Italian, Gillespie’s Taverns, and 42 BBQ Smokehouse & Market. 

Are Malls Mounting a Comeback?

Cedric Teboul, a real estate advisor, believes so. He told The Food Institute, “Big-city malls are seeing exponential traffic growth.” He also believes restaurants offering entertainment and experiential dining can thrive in these new environments. 

While mall developers have been going after establishments like Cheesecake Factory and Dave & Buster’s for years, in February 2022, Kitchen United entered the fray. Teaming up with Simon Property Group, a real estate investment trust which invests in shopping malls, they launched their ‘Grab Go Eat’ platform. 

Jaime Bettencourt, a marketing executive, shared, “Shopping malls drive and reinforce an innate characteristic of human beings—a desire to be around other people. As a result, the malls of the future will continue to incorporate a shop, eat, play, and entertainment experience.”

Examples of Anchors

Several years ago, when the Oakbrook Center mall in Illinois underwent a $30 million renovation, it subdivided the lower level of a Neiman Marcus store into two restaurants: Old Town Pour House and Perry’s Steakhouse. Today, that type of renovation is growing more common, with restaurants taking over as anchors.

According to the CBRE Group, restaurants occupy about 20-40% of a shopping center’s gross leasable area. 

Destination, upscale, and fine-dining restaurants are calling people in. And so are entertainment brands, such as Main Event Entertainment, trampoline parks, comedy clubs, and many more. The bottom line? They offer today’s consumers an experience.

 The Ultimate Entertainment Anchor

Puttshack, a competitive socializing concept centered around upscale, tech-infused miniature golf, signed a lease in March 2023 for a 25,000 square-foot-location at Dania Pointe, Florida, a premier lifestyle destination known for shopping and quality dining.

This well-known entertainment concept features highly engaging, competitive nine-hole mini golf courses, craft cocktails, globally-inspired food, and local DJs. In the U.S., you can find Puttshack’s in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Miami, and St. Louis, with another 13 new locations scheduled in the coming year.

Emerging Concepts

At Emerging Concepts, we help clients such as Puttshack, Silverspot Cinema, and City Works choose optimum locations as they expand nationwide. Why do they trust our expertise? Because our data scientists, analysts, and real estate experts are committed to strategic development that expands their brands in the most effective manner, maximizing returns and minimizing risks. To learn more about the latest expansion opportunities or to schedule a consultation, contact Emerging Concepts today.

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