Thursday, November 15, 2012

Road Warrior Report: Tysons Corner, VA

Reclaiming Unused Mall Space

An Oculus project manager recently traveled to Tysons Corner, VA for a retail site visit. While analyzing space for a retail project in Tyson’s Corner Center, she discovered a unique Japanese style restaurant taking up residence in the middle of the mall. 

Wasabi is a modern Japanese cuisine chain that uses conveyor belts to serve small plates to customers around a bar and booth dining area. The plates are color-coded in order to indicate price and everything is prepared fresh, right in front of the customer. While they take traditional Japanese cuisine and infuse it with Latin American flavors, the really unique feature of this Wasabi location is the fact that it takes space traditionally used for adoration, such as fountains and artwork, and finds a way to monetize it. 

While it may serve as an aesthetic centerpiece to a shopping center, there is unfortunately no money to be made off of the square footage of these fountain/pretty areas. The Wasabi restaurant concept is beginning to interject itself into the “white space” areas of shopping centers across the country and developers and mall owners couldn’t be happier about the prospect of actually making money on spaces that previously cost them to maintain.

While malls across the country are struggling to stay afloat due to the rise of lifestyle centers and online shopping juggernauts like Amazon, could we see more places like Wasabi pop-up as developers and mall owners try to squeeze every usable square foot of the mall? 

Could the St. Louis Galleria, with its large amount of square footage dedicated to its fountain, be in-line for a new Wasabi or similar concept? Maybe instead of sushi joint, St. Louis could see a conveyor belt style restaurant serving up traditional local fare such as toasted ravioli, provel cheese pizza, and gooey buttercake?

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