For decades, mall food courts were hubs of activity, filled with teenagers, shoppers, and employees dining on fast food while being barraged by a constant din and fluorescent lighting.
Fast-forward to today, when consumers are more savvy about their food and experiences. No longer do people want to stuff their faces with poorly made frozen foods served on Styrofoam plates. More progressive malls are doing something about this shift by offering everything from more upscale dining to softer lighting and fresher food options. Examples of progressive food court thinking can be found at Aventura Mall, with the addition of local tenants like Gastropod and Pasha's, and International Mall, where healthy chain Freshii opened. Now Dadeland Mall is taking on the food court challenge with a major renovation and its own Freshii location.
The changes are already underway. The existing food court will be transformed into a 19,298-square-foot dining pavilion complete with a series of dining spaces and rooms, possibly to mitigate the harsh ambient noise that a large space creates. The pavilion will be decorated in white tones with natural wood furnishings, and a central skylight will reduce the need for harsh artificial lighting. The space will also offer strong Wi-Fi service for customers to check up on the world outside mall life. The last time the mall's food court was remodeled was in 2004.
The current 16 restaurant tenants at the food court will remain open during and after renovation. Though some are typical fast-food chains, the mall is slowly paving the way for healthier options with the opening of Thai Basil, which offers made-to-order meals cooked with fresh ingredients. The food court also houses Daily Bread, a family-owned-and-operated Middle Eastern fast-casual restaurant.
According to Irma Castor, mall manager at Dadeland, the dining pavilion will also welcome Freshii, a Canadian-based healthful-food chain that opened its first Miami location in Wynwood last November. The new, 580-square-foot space will offer salads, wraps, bowls, burritos, fresh juices, and smoothies.
The dining pavilion's bathrooms will also get a much-needed face-lift, featuring quartz sinks, a family bathroom, and charging stations so guests can top off their phones while freshening up.
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Daiilen Rodriguez, director of marketing and business development for Dadeland Mall, says, "The redesigned space will create a true gathering place for our shoppers, tourists, and area office employees alike."
The mall, which opened more than five decades ago, continues to remain relevant because of its constant upgrades and the ability to snag hot tenants such as Apple, Microsoft, and Tesla Motors. Just last year, Dadeland added a terrace dining wing that offers a variety of fast-casual and sit-down dining options, such as Aroma Espresso Bar, celebrity chef-driven Bobby's Burger Palace, Aoki Teppanyaki, Canadian transplant Earl's Kitchen & Bar, and Texas de Brazil. Dadeland Mall was recently named Best Mall in New Times' 2015 Best of Miami issue.
The renovation is set for a November 2015 completion — just in time for the holiday shopping crunch.