The Future of Food Court Restaurants

For many restaurants that are associated with food courts, places like malls and airports are very important for driving revenue. With these areas experiencing so much turbulence in the pandemic, what could the future look like for America’s food court staples?


Cinnabon® Ventures into the Freezer Section

Food court favorite Cinnabon® has just launched their first frozen breakfast line, which includes beloved classic flavors as well as more innovative savory options not found at Cinnabon’s® bakery locations. The lineup includes Caramel Pecan Ooey-Gooey Rolls, Frosting Filled CinnaPastries, Jalapeno Cheddar Sausage Bites, CheddarRoll Sausage & Egg Sandwiches, and CinnaBiscuit Chicken Sandwiches.

In an interview with USA Today, Cinnabon® president Kristen Hartman commented on the timing of the new release. “We know how important it is to extend our brand beyond our bakeries and we’re thrilled our grocery presence has allowed Cinnabon® to play a larger role in our fans’ lives while they spend more time at home.”

In the company’s official press release, Hartman went on to say that “Our world famous bakeries are the heart and soul of Cinnabon® but grocery products, like our frozen breakfast creations, give Cinnabon® fans the chance to bring a piece of the bakery experience into their homes and provide more delicious ways to enjoy the flavors they love.”

A frozen line could be a great move for Cinnabon® as the company navigates what a future with low mall traffic might look like for them. By diversifying their offerings, the company will be better equipped to weather a holiday season with limited retail traffic, while also hooking new fans that might become future customers at physical Cinnabon® locations if food courts are able to pick back up again after the pandemic.


Jamba Juice® Rolls Out a New Model

Jamba Juice®, beloved by mallrats across America for decades, is piloting a food truck model in Georgia. This sort of business format is less costly for new franchisees to finance compared to retail locations, it meets customers where they are (rather than relying on shopper foot traffic), and it can introduce the brand to a variety of new areas that might not be as familiar with Jamba Juice®.

When talking with QSR Magazine, brand president Geoff Henry said that “Obviously, time will tell what the ultimate impact of COVID-19 will be on behaviors and habits. But, certainly, I think the food truck and its capabilities are highly relevant for urban locations. I could also see it in suburban or more coastal locations.”


Auntie Anne’s® Pushes Brand Boundaries

With restaurants pivoting to at-home products, companies like Auntie Anne’s® are taking advantage of the opportunity to experiment with the limits of their brand. For example, a new partnership with Samuel Adams® has the brands teaming up for a limited-edition Oktoberfest At Home Kit.

According to Marcel Nahm, VP of marketing for Auntie Anne’s®, the company felt that “since this historic celebration was cancelled in Germany and so many Oktoberfest celebrations are being held virtually in the states, we knew we needed to step in and offer a fun way for snackers and drinkers to still create an authentic experience at home. It was the perfect fit to team up with Samuel Adams® to create these Oktoberfest At Home Kits.”

Of course, Auntie Anne’s® bakery locations don’t serve alcohol. Rather than let pandemic restrictions hold the brand back, the company is instead developing creative campaigns that would not have been possible to execute in-store. This kind of innovative partnership also keeps the brand feeling relevant, even when customers aren’t able to experience Auntie Anne’s® the way that they are used to.

The traditional food court isn’t dead, but it’s not clear if and when it will ever look like it used to. In order to grow without packed malls or airports, it will be important for these types of restaurants to consider new opportunities to meet consumers where they currently are – at home.

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