It’s quite the modern paradox – we have come to expect 24/7 connectivity yet, it’s also what stops us from soaking up the only thing we truly have – this very moment. It’s also what’s driving Starwood Retail Partners to deliver restaurant and entertainment concepts which focus on immersive experiences and feed our soul.
“I'm a fan of anything which causes people to put the cell phone down,” reveals Bryant Siragusa, Vice President, National Restaurant and Entertainment Leasing. “We don’t want people on a date with their faces buried in their phones. We want to give people something to engage in.”
That’s where dining models, such as Deadbolt at Blue Back Square (CT) comes in. With its signature spirits and whimsical American fare, it adjoins next-level ‘escape room’ concept, Skeleton Key, and makes the perfect backdrop for an interactive eating experience. It’s also exactly what malls across America now need, as Siragusa explains: “It’s no longer good enough to view shopping centers as merely a place to purchase goods; more so they should be experiential and encourage being social.”
One such haven which epitomises this belief is Hampton Social. Soon to be shaking up the restaurant scene at the Arboretum at South Barrington (IL), this local initiative lives by the mantra “Rosé all day” and will be as much about the atmosphere as it is the enticing seafood and light options menu. It’s destined to be the venue where girlfriends gather together to gossip over brunch, where couples congregate to catch up on each other’s hectic lives or the perfect place to impress a date, while you sit back and soak up the live music in chilled and charming surrounds.
The Shops at Willow Bend’s chef-driven dining complex, The District, also continues to cement its fashionable dining status in Plano, Texas. Knife, headed by celebrity chef John Tesar, has proven very popular with patrons, as have Whistle Britches, Mexican Bar Co. and Terra Mediterranean Grill. But when it comes to a dining experience, it’s Ascension Coffee which leads the way. Besides their bespoke coffee range and breakfast and lunch menus, what makes it so unique is their carry liquor license. At any time during opening hours, you can order your beer and wine, have it decanted into a glass and traverse the entire shopping center with your beverage in hand. This ‘sip and shop’ movement is a novel experience, and a rare find in malls today.
And for those who do desire a dining experience but can’t live without documenting their every move on their socials, The Mall at Wellington Green (FL) has the ultimate solution. Instagrammable moments abound at the Ford’s Garage restaurant. Modeled after a 1920s service station, the theme permeates every aspect of the eatery, from the bar to the bathroom: we’re talking tires for bathroom sinks and gas pumps fashioned as handles. “It's got great aesthetics,” Siragusa explains. “The memorabilia and all the Ford-related branding make this such a unique experience, and it’s no surprise people are travelling far and wide to witness it for themselves.”