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Food court

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Typical shopping center food court vendor layout at Centre Eaton in Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Pirate Champ's Cafe food court at Port Charlotte High School

A food court (in Asia-Pacific also called food hall or hawker centre)[1] is generally an indoor plaza or common area within a facility that is contiguous with the counters of multiple food vendors and provides a common area for self-serve dinner.[2][3] It can also be a public dining area in front of a cafe or diner.

Food courts may be found in shopping malls, airports, and parks. In various regions (such as Asia, the Americas, and Africa), a food court may be a standalone development. In some places of learning such as high schools and universities, food courts have also come to replace or complement traditional cafeterias.[4][5][6]

Typical usage[edit]

The food court at Jefferson Mall in Louisville, Kentucky

Food courts consist of a number of vendors at food stalls or service counters. Meals are ordered at one of the vendors and then carried to a common dining area, often using a common food tray standardized across all the court's vendors. The food may also be ordered as takeout for consumption at another location, such as a home or workplace. In this case, it may be packaged in plastic or foam food containers on location. Vendors at food courts may also sell pre-packaged meals for consumers to take home.[7]

Food is usually eaten with plastic cutlery, and sporks are sometimes used to avoid the necessity of providing both forks and spoons. There are exceptions: Carrefour Laval requires its food court tenants to use solid dinnerware and cutlery which it provides.[8]

Typical North American and European food courts have mostly fast-food chains (such as McDonald's, Sbarro, and Panda Express) in combination with other independent vendors.

Cuisines and choices are varied, with larger food courts offering more global choices. Asian and African food courts are mostly private vendors that offer local cuisine. In Singapore, food courts and hawker centres are the people's main eating choice when dining out.[9]

Common materials used in constructing food courts are tile, linoleum, Formica, stainless steel, and glass, all of which facilitate easy cleanup.[7]


The second-floor food court at the Paramus Park shopping mall in Paramus, New Jersey, which opened in March 1974, has been credited as the first successful shopping mall food court in the United States. However, a food court at the Sherway Gardens shopping center in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, was constructed three years earlier.[10] Built by the Rouse Company, one of the leading mall building companies of the time, it followed an unsuccessful attempt at the Plymouth Meeting Mall in 1971, which reportedly failed because it was "deemed too small and insufficiently varied".[10][11]

The concept has since evolved in the US in the form of the food hall which has increased in popularity in the US.[12]

In Jakarta, the food court has evolved into the food-park concept, where food stalls are located on park like open space. There are several food-parks in Jakarta now.[citation needed]

In Thailand, the first food court was called Mahbunkhrong Food Center inside Mahbunkhrong Center (modern-day MBK Center), opened on February 7, 1985, along with a shopping center. It was considered the largest food court in the country. In 2014, it was improved to MBK Food Island.[13]


The food court at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport in Mumbai as seen in 2010
The food court at SM Seaside City in Cebu City as seen in 2021

In the 1990s, food courts became a shopping mall staple.[14] Food courts became such an integral part of culture that colleges and universities began to incorporate food-court like settings in their cafeteria, and even brought name-brand franchises (KFC, Taco Bell, Subway, etc.) into partnership with the schools. Soon after, airports, as well as many office buildings, incorporated food court layouts in their public spaces as it allows franchises and businesses to gain a wide spectrum of consumers for profit.[15]

In 2010, eating out became more common for an average American in comparison to eating at-home meals. Approximately 47% of their food budget would go towards eating out at restaurants or at food courts.[16]

Though food courts still exist, many food hall elements have been incorporated into food court settings.  In order for vendors to succeed in this setting, businesses feel as though they have to keep up with the popularity of fresh food and stray away from the traditional unhealthy, fast food reputation of food courts.[12]

In 2009, mall sales reached an approximated $49 billion, and food courts generally did better than other food services inside the malls. The sales, per-square-foot, for food courts declined only 1.7 percent during that year, while fast-food outlets and full-service restaurants inside malls declined 4.4 and 6 percent, respectively, according to the ICSC.[17] For several years, Business Insider named Panda Express as one of the first food court businesses achieving notorious success in the industry. One of the reasons for Panda Express' success was due to their constant change and upgrading of their menu items.[18]

Costco Wholesale has one of the largest and most successful businesses that benefit from the revenue generated by food court sales. While many food court businesses pursue a healthy and fresh image, Costco aligns their food court branding with the stereotypical fast food image. By placing their food court near the exit of their store, Costco is able to generate more revenue, encouraging customers to linger in the store longer and purchase more products. It is one of their main business strategies, since Costco is known for its bulk products, its prices, and its food court.[19]

Since the experience of localized and fusion food trends have been very prominent in North American culture, food trucks have recently been a trend in the industry. The local aspect of food trucks combined with the community aspect of food courts has enabled the recent trend of food truck rallies. By using food trucks as a promotional tool, many vendors are able to brand themselves to fit the demand of local businesses in the realm of franchise competition.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Four of the best: Asian food halls". NZ Herald. May 22, 2011.
  2. ^ "Landlord Tenant Common Areas Law & Legal Definition". definitions.uslegal.com. Retrieved March 12, 2009.
  3. ^ "Food court". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (Fourth ed.). Retrieved May 22, 2007 – via Answers.
  4. ^ Beach, George (August 2000). "High School Food Courts: A New Evolution in Student Dining". School Planning and Management. 39 (8): 22–23.
  5. ^ Amy Milshtein (November 1999). "Bye Bye Cafeteria - Hello Restaurant-Style Dining". College Planning and Management. Archived from the original on February 3, 2010.
  6. ^ "Stamford University Food Court". Archived from the original on July 26, 2010. Retrieved August 2, 2010.
  7. ^ a b Underhill, Paco (2004). Call of the Mall. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0-7432-3592-1.
  8. ^ "Carrefiyr Laval Reinvents the Shopping Center Food Experience With Its New Dining Terrace" (Press release). November 4, 2009. Archived from the original on October 4, 2010.
  9. ^ "Eating in Singapore, Famous Singapore Food • Food & Leisure". www.singaporeexpats.com.
  10. ^ a b "Rouse Left Mark On Malls, Not Just His Own". Shopping Centers Today (International Council of Shopping Centers). May 2004. Archived from the original on October 17, 2012. Retrieved April 20, 2010.
  11. ^ Bloom, Nicholas Dagen. "Public Life as Consumerism: American Businessmen Revolutionize Suburban Commerce", in From Department Store to Shopping Mall (2005)
  12. ^ a b Gose, Joe (September 12, 2017). "The Food Court Matures into the Food Hall". The New York Times.
  13. ^ "FOOD LEGENDS BY MBK". MBK Group (in Thai).
  14. ^ Sanburn, Josh (July 20, 2017). "Why the Death of Malls Is About More Than Shopping". Time.
  15. ^ "A History of the Food Court". Mental Floss. February 8, 2016. Retrieved November 10, 2018.
  16. ^ Kolodinsky, Jane; Green, Jennifer; Michahelles, Marina; Harvey-Berino, Jean R. (November 2008). "The Use of Nutritional Labels by College Students in a Food-Court Setting". Journal of American College Health. 57 (3): 297–302. doi:10.3200/jach.57.3.297-302. ISSN 0744-8481. PMID 18980885. S2CID 28823954.
  17. ^ "Shop and awe: malls, operators embrace fancy food courts as sales and traffic drivers". Nation's Restaurant News
  18. ^ "Death Of The Food Court: Iconic mall chains like Cinnabon, Sbarro, and Panda Express are transforming to survive". Business Insider. Retrieved November 10, 2018.
  19. ^ Meyersohn, Nathaniel (October 4, 2018). "Costco's secret weapon: Food courts and $1.50 hot dogs". CNN. Retrieved November 10, 2018.

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