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What is a Food Court?

Michael Pollick
Updated May 16, 2024
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Most modern shopping malls provide visitors with amenities such as public restrooms, information kiosks, gift wrapping services and supervised child care. One of the most popular communal elements of a shopping mall, however, is a collection of diverse restaurants known as a food court. This area provides mall visitors with an array of eateries, from local franchises to specialized chains. Venues typically operate side-by-side, with a centralized communal dining area to accommodate customers.

A food court is generally located near one of the larger "anchor stores" in a shopping mall, or else in a location convenient for truck deliveries. The location tends to make it a destination point, encouraging shoppers to browse smaller stores and kiosks along the route. While some specialty food vendors may rent more centralized spaces, most full-service restaurant owners prefer the pool of potential customers created in a food court.

Although many shopping malls have full-service theme restaurants elsewhere, the food court offers customers the opportunity 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 often want different types of food than their parents, so this feature allows each family member to purchase different meals at different locations and still eat together in a communal dining area.

Food vendors who offer exotic or international entrees often find it easier to operate a smaller outlet at a food court rather than invest in a stand-alone building or independent restaurant elsewhere in the mall. Customers are often more willing to sample unusual or ethnic foods when all of the options are grouped together. It is not unusual for employees to offer free samples of their products to potential customers walking through the area.

A mall food court may also offer specialty foods such as gourmet cookies, fruit smoothies, coffee drinks, soft pretzels or premium ice cream. These specialty stores may not attract many customers on their own, but when located next to other restaurants, their sales tend to increase significantly. Individual eateries tend to benefit from a type of synergy, as customers of one venue seek out side dishes, desserts or beverages from another.

Some popular chain restaurants offer customers the same menu items found in their larger stores, but others may offer a more restricted menu because of limited storage or preparation space. Many food court restaurants also limit their offerings to items that can be served in a short amount of time, such as sandwiches, fried side items and pre-baked goods. Condiments, disposable utensils, napkins and other items are generally located in a service line designed for efficient fast food service.

A food court is often one of the most popular destinations for casual shoppers who want to spend several hours in a bustling shopping mall. It may also be the only local outlet for certain specialty or ethnic foods, which creates a different kind of attraction for restaurant owners.

SmartCapitalMind is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick , Writer
As a frequent contributor to SmartCapitalMind, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

Discussion Comments

By ChickenLover — On Oct 04, 2010

@wecallherana - I think Los Angeles really has a lot of money to spare sometimes. Really, if you think about it the city is responsible for keeping up with literally EVERYthing. From fashion to food, the city is the center of attention with movie stars, aspiring wanna be's, and musicians all over the place. They really have an image to uphold and having a great mall or food court is all part of that - silly as that may seem.

By wecallherana — On Oct 04, 2010

@Kamchatka - You see the outdoor food courts most commonly in college towns, I think. It makes a lot of sense if you think about it. I have been to this great food court in LA, though, that has nothing to do with college. I think LA is really on top of things because it's a very active, centered city.

By Kamchatka — On Oct 04, 2010

You can also find food courts in most common outdoor shopping malls. Technically you could call a strip center with nothing but restaurants a food court as well. I love the food court images of the outdoor malls because they are so different and people don't really expect them.

Michael Pollick

Michael Pollick


As a frequent contributor to SmartCapitalMind, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide...
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