The next phase of the Rideau Centre’s $360-million expansion opened Friday morning, and the mall’s general manager said it’s a first for the city.
© David Sali
The new Rideau Centre Dining Hall opened Aug.1. It is the first one in Ottawa to offer reusable cutlery, dishes and glassware.
Cindy VanBuskirk said the Rideau Centre's new dining hall is based on a scullery model, with reusable dishware, glasses, and cutlery. That approach is more more expensive, she said, but definitely worth it.
“We feel we have a responsibility and an obligation to do our part as a corporation to protect the environment, so if we can divert millions of styrofoam packing containers and other things from landfill, then I think we have an obligation to do that,” she said.
Ms. VanBuskirk said she thinks it will also be good for the mall’s bottom line.
“If it causes a customer to want to stay longer, or bring their family with them or a couple of girlfriends, that’s great,” she said. “That’s just good for business and we’re in business. We’re in the business of creating great experiences that make people want to choose us over the shopping centre down the street.”
The Rideau Centre is a Cadillac Fairview property, and Ms. VanBuskirk said the developer has had success with this model at Le Carrefour Laval in Montreal and at the Toronto Eaton Centre.
She said other developers are starting to take notice.
“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” she said, noting the Yorkdale Shopping Centre in Toronto, an Oxford Properties facility, is now also using the scullery model.
Ms. VanBuskirk said Cadillac Fairview is renovating and remodeling many of its food courts across the country, but not all of them will use the model adopted by the Rideau Centre.
But it was the right fit for the downtown Ottawa mall, she said.
“One of the things we recognized is that our dining options are really not what they should be for a property of our calibre,” she said. “We’ve had a food court for 31 years and it has been enormously successful, but it’s very undersized and doesn’t really offer the choice that our customers would like.”
Ms. VanBuskirk said when Nordstrom took the top two floors of the three-floor former Sears space, it gave the mall a “wonderful opportunity” to relocate and rebrand its dining area.
The new food court is also bigger, increasing from 11 to 16 vendors and from 500 to 850 seats.
Shoppers will also get to sample some new cuisine – seven of the food outlets are making their Ottawa debut. But Ms. VanBuskirk said that meant saying good-bye to some former business partners.
Gone are Manchu Wok, Suchi by Bento Nouveau, Teriyaki Express, Viva Italia, and Tim Hortons, although the coffee shop’s other location within the mall remains.
“Because we’re endeavouring to really create some newness and excitement, to just move all 11 with us, we felt didn’t really give us the opportunity to do that,” she said.
Among the new options is Meltdown, offering gourmet grilled cheese. It’s a homecoming of sorts for the Kingston-based operation, which was started by two brothers from Ottawa.
Ms. VanBuskirk said the new dining options reflect the diversity of the mall’s customer base.
“If you want to get a kale salad from Green Rebel, you can do that, and if you’re a 12-year-old boy and all you’re really interested in is A&W, you can have that experience too,” she said.
The old food court closed shop Thursday night and now the renovations there begin. Ms. VanBuskirk said they will include an expanded Shoppers Drug Mart and access to the Rideau Station of the LRT as well as some smaller service-related retailers.