A busy shopping mall offers restaurant operators a steady and reliable stream of foot traffic and potential customers, making premium mall space a high-dollar proposition. If you're considering a food operation in any kind of indoor or outdoor mall, there are important steps of research, leasing, planning, construction and opening-day preparation that will smooth the way to a successful experience.
Research available local mall space. Much like cities, malls have zoning rules. Restaurants may be located in strictly defined areas, such as a food court, but they also may exist in other locations, with their own signage and entries. Mall operators rent space by the square foot. The higher the foot traffic, the better the location and the higher the rent will be. In the third quarter of 2014, the average monthly rent rate at regional malls reached $40.51 a square foot. If your budget is limited, and you don't intend to operate a franchise, a stand-alone kiosk or food cart may present a less expensive option. At the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, cart rentals ran about $2,300 a month or 15 percent of sales, whichever is greater.
Request a tenant information package, which will outline the requirements and guides for businesses operating in a particular mall. These cover design and site plans, signage guidelines, plumbing and power supply, fire protection information, building permits, health department rules and inspections, business licensing, trash removal, telephones, security, and many other details. Without a thorough knowledge of these requirements, you're risking snags and delays that will threaten the viability of your business.
Open negotiations with the operator on the terms of your lease. Above and beyond the rental rates, the operator may require a share of the gross or net income of the restaurant as well as a sizable down payment and security deposit. A longer-term (multi-year) lease allows your business more time to establish itself, but also locks you into a contract that may not be advantageous as dining and retail markets change.
Prepare for your grand opening, when you welcome new diners to experience carefully planned menus, drinks, service and atmosphere. Take advantage of any cooperative advertising agreement the mall may offer its tenants for these events, and use promotions and special offers to draw in curious customers. For its grand opening at the Crossgates Mall in Albany, New York, the Brazilian-themed Texas De Brazil franchise offered an e-club via e-mail through which members received exclusive offers for anniversaries and birthdays.