We are all aware that the way of shopping is changing: more people are opting to shop online and sales in brick-and-mortar stores are suffering. Closures of JCPenney and Sears have threatened to close entire malls, since these anchors – otherwise known as key tenants — tend to drive traffic to the rest of the mall.

Surprisingly, even Macy’s flagship store in New York City considered selling its space. Although e-commerce may be driving consumers away from malls and shopping centers, food is reeling them back in.

From Necessity to Obsession

This growth may have something to do with the newfound food obsession taking over social media. Just think about the number of “food porn” posts, enticing recipe videos from BuzzFeed’s Tasty, and the unique “how it’s made” videos from INSIDER food you see daily. In addition, millennials now value experiences — such as eating interesting and unique foods – over owning material items. And according to The Pew Research Center, millennials have surpassed Baby Boomers as the nation’s largest living generation, meaning this is the core group advertisers want to appeal to the most.  

So, what type of food is bringing people back to shopping centers? You would expect that it might be trendy fast-casual restaurants like Shake Shack or Panera that are bringing people in. However, it’s the fast-changing and diverse population of food trucks that are bringing crowds back to these shopping locations.

Why Food Trucks?

“Food trucks are basically the pop-ups of the restaurant business,” said Melina Cordero, CBRE’s head of retail research in the Americas. “They come in, they can set up, they’re low cost, and they’re constantly changing.”

Today’s consumers are craving diverse options of specialty ethnic foods that are prepared and served quickly. However, food trends change so rapidly that it’s hard for brick-and-mortar restaurants to keep up. This is a perfect storm for food trucks. It’s a low-cost and fast way to give consumers what they want, and restaurateurs who don’t want to take a big risk can still cash in on the restaurant business. The trends and trucks change and move so frequently in fact, that this website tracks where food trucks are based on your zip code or the type of cuisine you’re looking for.

With all these amazing “blink-if-you-miss-it” opportunities to experience a diverse array of food, people want to try it as soon as they can so they don’t miss out. So let them focus on eating at a specialty food truck that’s parked outside your store – because these customers might wander in to take a look at, and maybe even purchase, your merchandise.

What This Means for Real Estate

Let the food trucks do the work for you to bring sales to your stores. If the truck is extremely popular and lines are always long, you can almost guarantee there will be a lot foot traffic – to both the food truck AND your store.

While people are waiting in line, they’ll look around at their surroundings. If they happen to be standing in front on your store, they might want to purchase the warm fleece jacket on display in the window. If you get enough people who plan to buy your merchandise while waiting in a food truck line, you’ll make a profit without having to put out any money yourself.

Although it might seem like a large crowd outside of your store can be a nuisance, this might be a sure-fire way to bring more foot traffic into your store, which will bring more money into your company’s pocket.