A large shopping centre often has areas that feature a wide variety of restaurants. These areas typically have restaurant counters along the sides and a centralized eating area with tables and chairs. When everything goes well, this allows groups of shoppers to choose from different food establishments without having to separate.
This arrangement is great when it is done well, but it's hard to keep the eating areas clean and enticing. Here are some of the things you should do to prevent the grime, clutter, and spilled foods that would drive customers away:
Hire Dedicated Cleaning Staff for These Areas
The "tragedy of the commons" is possibly the most evident in a mall food court. Cleaning the seating area isn't the responsibility of the tenants, and none of the regular staff want to do it either. Avoid the resulting problems by hiring a couple of people to do nothing but clean this part of the shopping center. Once the work is assigned like this, there'll be no way for the relevant employees to pass it off as "not our job."
Use Only Easy-to-Clean Elements
It's important to use tables, chairs, flooring, and other elements that can be cleaned by wiping or mopping. Soft elements, like carpet, will grab grime and be quickly ruined. To help prevent the area from being dirtied by spills at the restaurant counters, try adding some non-absorbent rubberized mats on the customer side. These will also add a bit of visual interest so things don't look too sparse.
Don't Expect All Customers to Handle Their Own Garbage Disposal
While it's a great idea to encourage customers to throw out all of their own disposables, you should always keep in mind that some people simply will not do it. Encourage the more civil patrons to do some of the work by having plenty of trash receptacles in the food court area, but assign janitorial work with some tabletop cleanup in mind. This way, your staff won't be overwhelmed when a percentage of people leave their garbage behind.
Manage the Trays
It's very off-putting to enter a food court area only to see messy piles of trays over the garbage receptacles, on the tables - and in the worst cases - even on the floor. This problem is caused by restaurant tenants who never send people out to collect their trays back. For this, the solution is one of improved contract negotiation. Give your tenants incentive to keep up on tray retrieval. Depending on your clientele, you can try adding a fee for having too many trays waiting, give a discount for picking them up, or something else along those lines.
If you can't add a clause of that nature to your leases, try providing each tenant with their own color of trays. People are much less likely to fall behind on things like this when everyone else will know it's them.
Leave Plenty of Room Between the Tables
It's easy to fall into the trap of trying to provide more seating space by jamming extra tables into a food court. Resist this temptation! When tables are too close, the associated chairs become hazards. People trip on them or bump them, and this causes them to spill whatever is on the trays they are carrying. This makes a mess, angers the person who just lost the food that was paid for, and opens your center up for slip-and-fall claims. It's better to have fewer tables, and a few people who won't have anywhere to sit, than to have the problems brought on by overcrowding.
With these tips, your shopping mall's food service area can be kept clean, safe, and inviting. Your food customers and the tenants who serve them will surely appreciate it.