Have you ever thought about a Buffalo Wild Wings in a Sears? An Olive Garden in your rundown grocery store? A LongHorn Steakhouses in your Borders? Well if this idea excites you as much as it does me, you are in luck. Imagine that, a fucking Buffalo Wild Wings in Sears!!!
Many of your favorite chain restaurants look to take up space left behind by big-box retailers of the past. Darden Restaurants Inc. is the group behind most of these projects—an attempt to breathe life into the dying infrastructure that these retailers left behind. While many companies see such big vacant buildings as a difficult transformation, Darden sees the exact opposite. Darden sees the ability to put two different restaurants right next to each other that can exist without cutting business.
Take a look at these modern day malls that just did not quite make the cut. The Wall Street Journal reports that the average vacancy rate for U.S. malls and strip shopping centers have hit a 12- year high of 10.7% in last year’s third quarter. According to real estate research company CoStar Group Inc., restaurants are pushing into shopping centers at the highest point in seven years.
While many naysayers will complain about how the lease is just changing from chain-store to chain-store, and will still hurt our small town stores of the past, you cannot help but think that this is a great idea for the infrastructure in place. Have you been to a mall recently? I mean really have you? After graduating from college out east, I personally was shocked at how bad it has really gotten. Even our local mall in Orange County, a community not exactly known for being poor, has vacancies through the roof.
The last time I visited it was like a ghost town. While the Targets and McDonald’s are still there, gone are the small boutiques and restaurants that made up the “mall” experience. I can’t help but wonder if this is a product of our changes in how we consume. A poor economy coupled with the surge of online retailers could eventually become the death of these kinds of shopping centers.
And you know what? I am all for this change. Bring in the Buffalo Wild Wings. Eat up the all-you-can-eat breadsticks at Olive Garden. At least the infrastructure is being used and it is much better for real estate around the community then having a huge vacant lot.
Follow Kevin Camps @kpcamps.