Major Canadian shopping centre owner Oxford Properties Group has launched outdoor dining patios in all its enclosed malls across Canada.
“Dining is an important part of the shopping centre experience, and we are deeply invested in the success of all restaurants and food tenants,” said L.A. Glassford, VP Restaurant, Entertainment, Urban Retail, Oxford Properties.
“A number of the food and beverage establishments in our shopping centres have weathered prolonged mall closures. These outdoor dining areas are designed to provide an opportunity for our customers to enjoy food from these businesses in a pleasant environment that adheres to provincial safety measures. These patios also support our restaurants with much-needed additional seating as consumer demand has exceeded expectations.”
Glassford said one thing the company thought about quite early with all the closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic was how it was going to support its food and beverage businesses in general in their enclosed malls.
“When you’ve got a food court, how are we going to support these businesses? And what about restaurants without exterior patios? How do we support these businesses who are already spending a large percentage of their businesses on third-party delivery services? How are we going to help them?,” she said.
“We spent a lot of time – the operations teams, the site teams, and the marketing teams – very creative on how can we not only support but what is the experience we want to create for the customer. Now the customer being the customer who is going to eat at these establishments, the customers that work at these establishments, our own staff that needs somewhere to eat. What we did is we decided to introduce outdoor dining patios across all of our shopping centres with not just an outdoor patio. But a dining experience.
“So we’re deeply invested in all of these locations. What we did first off it has to address the additional seating we need. It has to meet the expectations of COVID, the safety protocols. We wanted to make it accessible. So we’re open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. We’re going to be open the entire summer and if we need to licence it we can look at it then. Most of our outdoor experiences can accommodate up to 100 different diners. That’s huge.”
Glassford said they are not just patios.
“You can have an al fresco experience at the terrace at Yorkdale with a chandelier and high end furniture. The grass feels good underneath your feet. You can have a shaded area with an umbrella or you can sit under a pergola. You can have full sun and sit in some bean bag chairs. We have different curated seating options,” she said.
“Palms. Different trees. Landscaping. The lighting. It really feels special. That’s the best way I can describe it. It feels special. When you are underneath the tent or the pergola or you’re sitting around a great high top, you’re transported. That was the goal and I think we delivered.”
Glassford said each outdoor dining patio at a shopping centre is going to be specific to the actual asset and for each one Oxford looked very carefully at where to position them within the property.
“We’ve launched them all and they’re quite special,” she said. “I’m most pleased with the experience it is going to provide because we all right now need an experience. We do. We’re craving it.”
Oxford Properties Group was established in 1960 and today manages approximately C$60 billion of assets across the globe on behalf of its co-owners and investment partners. Oxford’s portfolio encompasses office, retail, industrial, hotels and multifamily residential and spans more than 100 million square feet in global gateway cities and hubs across four continents. With its global headquarters in Toronto, Oxford operates out of 17 regional offices including London, Luxembourg, New York, Singapore and Sydney. Oxford is owned by OMERS, the defined benefit pension plan for Ontario’s municipal employees.
In Canada, its retail properties include: Arbora1Retail (Montreal); DIX-30-6000 Boulevard de Rome (Brossard, Quebec); Hillcrest Mall (Richmond Hill, Ontario); Kingsway Mall (Edmonton); Les Galeries de la Capitale (Quebec City); Les Promenades Gatineau (Gatineau, Quebec); Metro Centre (Toronto). One 70 Bloor Retail (Toronto); Royal Bank Plaza (Toronto); Scarborough Town Centre (Scarborough, Ontario); Southcentre Mall (Calgary); Square One Shopping Centre (Mississauga, Ontario); Upper Canada Mall (Newmarket, Ontario); and Yorkdale Shopping Centre (Toronto).