How do you get kids to hang out and shop at the mall again? The Westfield San Francisco Centre is banking that letting customers order food from their phone will do the trick.
The mall operator is launching a new initiative called "Dine on Time" which allows shoppers to order food for pick-up or delivery via an iPhone app, the mobile Web or online. The mall itself is trying to grab attention for the new program by getting recognized food bloggers and chefs to work with restaurants on exclusive dishes only available through Dine on Time.
But Westfield is just starting out with food. The ultimate goal is to use the platform it builds and the lessons it learns to expand its mobile service to other retailers.
"We believed there was a lot we can learn out of that category (food ordering) that would ultimately enable us to do the other categories that much better," Westfield's Global Chief Digital Officer, Kevin McKenzie, told Reuters.
Malls have been under pressure lately as e-commerce and same-day shipping draw shoppers away from the huge retail complexes. Other mall operators, like Simon and Taubman, have been scrambling to install digital updates to compete with the likes of Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), but that hasn't stopped some struggling retailers from shutting down mall-based stores to cut costs.
"I've come to the conclusion that within 10-15 years the typical U.S. mall, unless completely reinvented, will be seen as a historical anachronism that no longer meets the needs of the public, retailers or communities," Rick Caruso, founder and CEO of Caruso Affiliated, said at the National Retail Federation's 2014 Big Show opening keynote.
Westfield seems to agree, and McKenzie believes that making it possible for shoppers to order from the food court on their phone could be a step toward making malls a hub for customers once again. In the future, he envisions the same type of technology allowing Westfield stores to deliver products within the hour, something that would help level the playing field with e-commerce giants and the big-box stores now tesing or offering same-day delivery.
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