Juried restaurant mall and food court


As I noted earlier, last weekend I was at Oregon Country Fair, which is a great time. OCF has permanent facilities and has become more popular than it wants to be. All the booths, including food, have to be juried in and can in theory be kicked out to allow new ones in if popularity drops.

This results in much, much better food boths than you see at a typical random fair with vendors coming in simply if they pay their money.

And I wondered, can we extend this concept into the everyday restaurant world? For example a food mall, where the restaurant tennants are regularly judged for quality, and kicked out if they don't make the cut. Where you are assured a good meal at a reasonable price. If the idea works, people would go to this mall and make it worth the effort by the restaurants to stay.

This might work the same way movieplexes took over from solo cinemas. People go to a movieplex for the hot movie, but it often is sold out, so they go to a 2nd or 3rd or sometimes even 10th choice of what they want to see. This sells a lot more tickets and avoids people driving home without a movie at all -- though in my case I still sometimes bail out. Here, you could go to the restaurant mall with a particular restaurant in mind, but know that if it's too busy a fine meal is assured unless the whole mall is packed. There could even be a central line for "the next available restaurant."

Has this been done before? And what about going further and combining facilities...

This could be extended to something like an upscale food court. I've seen things approaching this but not exactly this. In this case tennants would operate kitchens but not tables. The large room of tables, with waiters and table service, would be operated by the court. A shared wireless computerized ordering system would allow any waiter to order any dish from any kitchen. The same waiter might run around to all the kitchens when signalled the orders are ready, or a different waiter could do it, the computer indicating what meal goes to what chair.

Of course, the system would distribute the money to the kitchens and the tips among the wait-staff. There would be one central point for seating and reservations.

To get really fancy, menus could be tablet PCs which display choices and let you order right on them. The dynamic menus would adjust -- if one kitchen is very busy, items could disappear from the menu, or show that there will be a wait. Or the waiters could just hold these tablets and still offer paper menus to the diners.


ever wonder why many of the ocf core old guard are no longer with the faire? power, bureaucracy, ...

good food is an art form. e.g., look at the japanese. don't try to put it in cubicles, computers, ... enjoy it with as many senses as you can bring to bear.

Well, at a lower level, for a while YUM Brands was opening combined KFC/Taco Bell/Pizza Hut places, presumably under the same theory of variety for a family who couldn't decide on a single place. I suspect the problem with doing this for a mall or the like would be the length of the restaurant leases. Most places would probably want a longer than a year lease due both to stability reasons and to amortize the cost of customizing the place to fit their food prep system and corporate style. And if the lease is that long, it'd be hard to kick out the lesser liked but still profitable places.

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