Shoppers can already buy cookware at Skokie’s Westfield Old Orchard, but this summer they’ll also be able to pick up groceries. When the mall’s new 22,500-square-foot food court is finished, it will offer a wide variety of dining options and a 5,500-square-foot grocery store.
“There’s a push by Westfield to always be putting the cutting edge options for food in our centers,” said Amy Benson, director of marketing for Westfield. “It’s become a new trend to become a one-stop shop, whether shoppers [are] coming for a dress for an evening out or going for a loaf of bread.”
Old Orchard shut down its food court in September. Since then, construction has been under way on the first U.S. venue for Richtree Market Restaurants, which has six locations in Canada. The new food court will feature open kitchens serving a huge selection of dishes including sushi, pasta, pizza, omelets and salads.
“You really get to see the soup being made from scratch, the baked good actually being baked there in the market,” Benson said. “It’s all being freshly created right in front of your eyes.”
While the companies are unaffiliated, Richtree operates similarly to foodlife at Water Tower Place in downtown Chicago. Diners are greeted by a hostess and receive a card to swipe at the different food stations, paying for everything at the end.
The Old Orchard space will feature indoor and outdoor dining, along with a rooftop deck. The grocery store will carry prepared foods, produce, meat, seafood and more, with an emphasis on sustainable and organic products.
Benson said the change was the result of market research that said shoppers were looking for healthier options and more choices for kids. The new food court will offer gluten free and vegetarian dishes, along with more kid-friendly fare.
“I think that you’re going to be able to find a larger range of products than we had at the old food court at a reasonable price,” Benson said.
Vicky Sfikas of Niles said she never went to Old Orchard’s food court because she doesn’t eat fast food, but that she would try the new version.
“You can’t eat garbage anymore,” Sfikas said. “I like fresh sandwiches, salads and sushi.”
Evanston resident Ann Crosby said she was happy to hear about the food court's overhaul. She noted that before it closed for the renovation, the offerings had dwindled down to just a few vendors.
“It sounds great,” Crosby said. “I’m kind of excited. I have two little ones, so the food court is a really great option because they never want the same thing. I don’t want to call it upscale because it’s still a food court, but it seems nicer.”
Glenview resident Laine Dolan, 14, said she comes to Old Orchard nearly every week. She often used the food court as a place to meet up with her friends and said she was looking forward to the new concept.
“I think it’s a great idea,” Dolan said. “It will be really convenient if you’re going there with your family.”
During the construction, the mall has posted a Quick Bites brochure on its website, which lists all of the mall’s casual dining spots.
“I think a lot of shoppers may not have been aware of all the options we had because they were so used to going to the food court,” Benson said. “We’re really just trying to provide as much information as we can for the shoppers so that during this time period, they can go to quick casual places like Potbelly’s, Corner Bakery and Noodles & Company.”
Benson said she eats at Old Orchard five days a week, so she’s looking forward to the opening of Richtree.
“It’s very appealing to me to be able to go into a restaurant everyday and have something different,” she said.