Woodfield Mall dining pavilion designed to create an 'experience'
In a challenging retail marketplace, malls realize more than ever that they must create an experience that will keep shoppers coming back for more.
Woodfield Mall is setting the table in creating that experience with a nearly $20 million dining pavilion that is part of an ongoing style revolution that kicked off just over two years ago. The pavilion, joining about 30 other eateries at the mall, will feature more than 12 restaurants, 820 seats, large screen TVs, skylights and large glass windows for natural light.
Community leaders were able to capture a sneak peek Thursday evening of the new dining area expected to open early this summer.
"This is a modern, sophisticated experience," said Dave Parulo, president of Meet Chicago Northwest. Schaumburg Trustee Marge Connelly agreed as she took a tour of the new space featuring soft seating by the large windows and an open feel. "They are doing a really nice job. They have thought of everything," Connelly said.
Retail experts say that Woodfield is right on track with the new dining experience.
"What Woodfield is doing fits with what customers are looking for," said retail analyst Neil Stern, a senior partner at McMillan Doolittle. "Shoppers are looking for the experience that features the right tenants and entertainment."
Woodfield General Manager Kurt Webb agrees that food plays a large part of the mall experience. The pavilion is designed to keep shoppers in the mall longer and provide a place to socialize, he said. "Millennials are into technology, yes. But they are still looking for a place to gather," he said.
For years, Woodfield has resisted the food court concept. Things changed when Simon Properties took over ownership of the indoor mall. Webb stressed that the pavilion is not your stereotypical food court from the '90s with a cafeteria feel. He said the new area, on the upper level next to sears Sears, has an upscale feel with a roster of restaurants including Blaze Fast Fire'd Pizza, Chipotle Mexican Grill and Charleys Philly Steaks. The food area replaces FYE- For Your Entertainment and A'Gaci which moved to other locations.
Malls have to keep reinventing themselves to remain strong, Stern said. "Woodfield is having no problem with that," he added. The last time Woodfield, which opened in 1971, had a major upgrade was, according to mall officials, when, in 1995, the center expanded by adding 50 stores, including the three-story Nordstrom.
Experts say prosperous malls tend to be located in high-density, affluent or tourist markets.
And that malls that lose multiple anchor tenants are vulnerable, as those losses can be disastrous for a property. Experts point to Amazon.com and the fast growth of online retail as other key reasons for the decline in the allure of some shopping malls.
But experts stress that retail is not dying, but what shoppers want to experience is changing.