Mall re-brands its 'dining' court to give shoppers a different experience

Staff writer

After months of toiling on a major overhaul, the most prominent eatery in the Annapolis area is up and running.

No, not the Market House.

Renovations to the food court at Westfield Annapolis mall — a feeding trough that serves more meals per day than the Naval Academy’s King Hall and comes without the drama and baggage of the Market House — are done.

Fundamentally, it’s still, like it always has been, a place to eat. But the re-branded “dining court” is also a part of a Westfield strategy to give customers a type of experience different from what they can get from Amazon and other online retailers, said Matt Barry, district general manager.

“A part of staying relevant in a customer's mind is being everything a customer needs,” Barry said in a Tuesday interview as lunchtime eaters ate around him.

Old standbys like Chipotle and Five Guys remain, but three new restaurants — Smoke Rattle & Roll, Flaming Cajun Grill and Holy Chicken — have moved in or are about to open. Subway, Taco Bell, Arby’s and Curry Marsala are gone.

Aesthetically the designers added nautical flourishes like decorative boat-like lines, bolts and metalwork akin to what might be seen on a ship’s hull. Cleats — the metal fixtures bolted onto docks and used to tie up boats — are affixed to tables so that shoppers can hang bags and purses.

Tables are equipped with electrical plugs for laptops and cell phones, providing energy to much-needed accessory for excursions outside the home.

The electrical outlets will encourage shoppers to stay in the mall longer, Barry said.

“The last thing we want is for someone to lose power and leave the mall,” he said.

Westfield added 200 tables, bringing the total to 750. The seating includes large and cushioned benches, wooden chairs with armrests, high-backed booths, and a handful of bar chairs as well. Providing enough seating so that people can dine together is a part of improving shopper’s experience at the mall, Barry said.

The bathrooms were remodeled, too. There’s a family-friendly restroom, and the men’s room has a mural of a large fish and booth-like stalls and brass-plated sinks.

While the renovations are intended to change the shopping experience, on Tuesday the aesthetics won praises.

“I like all the colors. It kind of reminds me of the beach,” Bowie resident Madi Sandoval said.

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