Shopping Malls to Increase Traffic by Promoting Food Service

Consumers may have endless online shopping choices these days but they still enjoy driving to the mall. And while they're shopping, they often visit the food court or other mall restaurants. Could mall operators improve their visitor traffic by promoting their dining options?

A recently published Cornell Hospitality Report indicates that consumers have specific mall dining preferences associated with age, gender and income levels. In general,  consumers eat at the following mall food service establishments at least once a week at the following rates:

  • Kiosk 9.8%
  • Quick serve 27.6%
  • Fast casual 16.4%
  • Casual 13.2%
  • Upscale 3.7%
  • Fine Dining 1.9%

Consumers under the age of 25 consistently eat at the mall at higher rates than any other age group and this holds true for all types of dining establishments. For example, 40.4% of the younger demographic eats at a quick serve restaurant at least once a week while 4.7% of this demographic eats at a fine dining restaurant on a weekly basis.  Both quick serve and fast casual outlets are favorites of men and women. About 11% of women patronize kiosk outlets on a weekly basis while 2.6% of men visit fine dining restaurants in malls every week. The study also found that American cuisine was preferred by 85.3% of diners while Chinese (64.%) and Mexican (60.5%) cuisines also rated high on the list of preferences.

Specific findings from this study that could help marketers plan their ad campaigns include:

  • Middle-​aged female shoppers who are educated and employed prefer casual and upscale casual restaurants.
  • Highly educated shoppers in the 25–34 year-​old age group prefer ethnic cuisine – especially Thai, Mexican and Greek.
  • Male shoppers who are older and retired do not eat out as often as other groups but when they do, prefer fine dining outlets.

The intention of the Cornell study is to help managers plan which eating establishments to include in the mall configuration. However, existing mall managers can use this data to run joint marketing campaigns with food service outlets to increase traffic.

[Source: Consumer Preferences for Restaurant Brands, The Center for Hospitality Research, Hotel School at Cornell, January 2010] 
Kathy Crosett
Kathy is the Vice President of Research for SalesFuel. She holds a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Vermont and oversees a staff of researchers, writers and content providers for SalesFuel. Previously, she was co-​owner of several small businesses in the health care services sector.