One of these brands is a giant money pit that's more flash than substance, while the other is a questionable real estate project in New Jersey. We think it's a perfect match.
— Kristen Hawley
Vice’s Munchies has a new endeavor: the mall food court. It has signed plans licensing its name to the food court at the new mega-mall under construction outside of New York City in the New Jersey meadowlands.
If this sounds weird given the prevailing “malls are dead” narrative we’ve been fed for the last few years, that’s because it is weird. But this project, which has been under construction for nearly 16 years, started in 2003. You know, when malls were still a thing. (It was originally called Xanadu, now American Dream. You can’t make this stuff up.)
Given the death of the mall and also our excitement and embrace of the somehow quainter-feeling, Euro-inspired food hall, these food-vendors-united-under-a-loose-theme projects have legs. Time Out has successfully opened food halls in cities from Lisbon to Chicago. According to a recent Eater report, at the end of 2017 there were 118 food halls in the U.S. (and that doesn’t count the ones that self-identify as food courts.)
So what’s attracting media brands to the restaurant industry? According to Digiday, “Munchies will select the vendors that will both represent the publisher’s sensibility and deliver something that feels appropriate to the food hall’s setting.” It also receives a brand licensing fee and revenue-dependant royalties — a marked departure from ad-based revenue streams, and that diversification is likely attractive to plenty of media companies. And Munchies is free to sell merchandise and hold events in the space, too.
Still, just like a chef lending his or her name to a restaurant, these deals could get tricky. What if one of the chosen vendors causes trouble? Or illness? What if the mall ends up being a total flop? (It does have a ski hill though, guys.) Is Munchines’ brand recognition strong enough to actually drive foot traffic into a food court in suburban New Jersey?
That’s probably more dependent on the vendors and restaurants included than brand loyalists to an online content site.