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Chapter IThe Problem and its SettingIntroductionMost modern shopping malls provide visitors withamenities such as public restrooms, information kiosks, giftwrapping services and supervised child care. One of the mostpopular communal elements of a shopping mall, however, is acollection of diverse restaurants known as a food court.This area provides mall visitors with an array of eateries,from local franchises to specialized chains. Venuestypically operate side-by-side, with a centralized communaldining area to accommodate customers.A food court is generally located near one of thelarger "anchor stores" in a shopping mall, or else in alocation convenient for truck deliveries. The location tendsto make it a destination point, encouraging shoppers tobrowse smaller stores and kiosks along the route. While somespecialty food vendors may rent more centralized spaces,most full-service restaurant owners prefer the pool ofpotential customers created in a food court.Although many shopping malls have full-service themerestaurants elsewhere, the food court offers customers theopportunity to sample many different styles of fast food.One spouse may want Chinese food, for example, while the
other may have a preference for Italian food. Children oftenwant different types of food than their parents, so thisfeature allows each family member to purchase differentmeals at different locations and still eat together in acommunal dining area.Food vendors who offer exotic or international entreesoften find it easier to operate a smaller outlet at a foodcourt rather than invest in a stand-alone building orindependent restaurant elsewhere in the mall. Customers areoften more willing to sample unusual or ethnic foods whenall of the options are grouped together. It is not unusualfor employees to offer free samples of their products topotential customers walking through the area.A mall food court may also offer specialty foods suchas gourmet cookies, fruit smoothies, coffee drinks, softpretzels or premium ice cream. These specialty stores maynot attract many customers on their own, but when locatednext to other restaurants, their sales tend to increasesignificantly. Individual eateries tend to benefit from atype of synergy, as customers of one venue seek out sidedishes, desserts or beverages from another.Some popular chain restaurants offer customers the samemenu items found in their larger stores, but others mayoffer a more restricted menu because of limited storage or2
preparation space. Many food court restaurants also limittheir offerings to items that can be served in a shortamount of time, such as sandwiches, fried side items andpre-baked goods. Condiments, disposable utensils, napkinsand other items are generally located in a service linedesigned for efficient fast food service.