“Since the Roman times, people have always wanted to ‘see and be seen’ and participate in a community. The experience people seek from a restaurant or entertainment anchor seems to make them more resilient in these changing times, and thus they are now the driving factors behind new developments, as well as developers’ efforts to remodel and increase relevance for existing shopping centers.”—Ashley Robinson.

A hot topic of conversation these days is the closure of America’s malls. But, according to Robinson, higher-end malls are taking advantage of the present retail environment to reinvent and reimagine their shopping centers.

With the big chain retailers that were once shopping mall’s anchor stores going the way of the dodo, fitness centers, indoor entertainment centers, and restaurants are stepping in to fill the role. Make that a lot of restaurants. Robinson references a time when malls only allowed 2 full-serve restaurants along with a mediocre food court in a shopping center of 1 million square feet of retail with 3 fashion anchors. Nowadays, she says, “A restaurant will often be 1 of possibly 7 full-service restaurants, plus a food hall with 7 to 10 unique, fresh QSR concepts with alcohol. Chef-driven concepts are growing more than many chains, and many have paid incredibly high rents that inflated the market to unsustainable rates when the sales dollars are that diluted.”

Many are blaming retail’s demise on Amazon and other e-commerce brands, and rightly so. Almost half of all U.S. households have an Amazon Prime membership. Amazon’s net revenue for 2016 reached $135.99 billion, up from $107.01 billion in 2015. That’s a big chunk of the consumer change. But Robinson believes there’s more to the story than the boom of online spending and that there is a way restaurateurs can take advantage of the changing times.

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