- Food courts are a quintessential part of the mall-going experience.
- Malls may be dying along with the American middle class, but many food court chains cling tenaciously to life. Many chains have survived and even managed to thrive by diversifying their locations and sales strategies.
- Here are the 11 classic food court chains with the most US locations, according to the 2019 Nation’s Restaurant News Top 200 report.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Food courts: love ’em, hate ’em, millennials haven’t killed them – yet.
Whether it’s saucy orange chicken or salted soft pretzels and mustard, food courts offer hungry shoppers and travellers myriad ways to nip their gnawing hunger in the bud.
The American middle class may be dying and taking malls with them, but at least their favourite mall treats show no signs of going anywhere. We scoured the latest Top 200 report from Nation’s Restaurant News to find America’s biggest food court chains.
From Smoothie King to Panda Express, these are the 11 food court restaurants with the most US locations:
11. Sarku Japan — 220 locations
Sarku Japan was founded in 1987 and has since become a staple of mall food courts with its iconic sample trays of teriyaki chicken. The Japanese-inspired chain currently has 220 locations.
10. Sbarro — 325 locations
This Italian-American chain serves up countless combinations of pizza dough, cheese, and toppings. Founded in 1956 Brooklyn by Italian immigrants Carmela and Gennaro Sbarro, Sbarro now has 325 locations nationwide.
9. Wetzel’s Pretzels — 335 locations
Wetzel’s Pretzels was founded in 1994 by Rick Wetzel and Bill Phelps, first serving classic salted soft pretzels. With 335 US locations, Wetzel’s Pretzels now also serves soft pretzels with a twist, with flavours like pizza, cinnamon sugar, and sour cream and onion.
8. Charleys Philly Steaks — 533 locations
Ohio State University student Charley Shin accidentally discoveredPhilly cheesesteaks after making a wrong turn on a road trip to New York. Soon after, he convinced his mum to invest her life savings into a cheesesteak shop near his university’s campus. Now, there are 533 Charleys Philly Steaks locations across the country.
7. Tropical Smoothie Cafe — 719 locations
What’s more mall-era than punctuating a shopping trip with a smoothie intermission? Second in location number only to Jamba, Tropical Smoothie Cafe has 719 locations across the country.
6. Jamba — 781 locations
The smoothie chain formerly known as “Jamba Juice” has 781 locations across the country. Jamba is known for its sweet, fruity smoothies, but recently relaunched its menu to focus on more plant-based options.
5. Cold Stone Creamery — 903 locations
Before there was rolled ice cream, Cold Stone Creamery was already mixing toppings into its smooth and dense frozen concoctions. Founded in Arizona, Cold Stone now has 903 locations nationwide and an international presence.
4. Cinnabon — 924 locations
Who knew a little frosted cinnamon bun could become so universal? Since it was founded in 1985, Cinnabon has built a swirly sweets empire that spans 924 US locations.
3. Auntie Anne’s — 1,295 locations
With a large variety of pretzel-based offerings, Auntie Anne’s aims to keep soft pretzels exciting. The farmer’s market pretzel stand Anne Beiler started in 1988 is now a massive international franchise with 1,295 US locations.
2. Panda Express — 2,104 locations
One of the biggest fish in the food court sea is Panda Express, the fast-food chain that arguably defined American-Chinese fast food. Founded by Andrew and Peggy Cherng in the early 1980s as Panda Inn, Panda Express now has 2,104 locations across the nation.
1. Baskin-Robbins — 2,529 locations
Baskin-Robbins is arguably the most recognisable ice cream shop chain in the US, and that’s probably due to the fact that it’s everywhere. In the US alone, Baskin-Robbins has a whopping 2,529 locations, although not all of them are in food courts.