photo: A themed shopping mall in Asia

Over time, consumers have become more technologically integrated and digitalized in their lifestyles1. Brick-and-mortar outlets are constantly on the lookout for innovative ways to retain foot traffic into their stores as they compete with online retailers.

One such effort retailers have adopted is by incorporating a unique country theme such as Korean, Japanese and British2. Once patrons enter these malls, they are more likely to spend a longer amount of time there for shopping, food, and entertainment3. For instance, Show DC Corp in Bangkok is a US$275 million Korean-themed shopping mall and entertainment complex. It aims to capitalize on the regional interest in South Korean pop culture. The mall boasts a variety of trendy Korean fashion, cosmetics and restaurants owned by Korean Popstars4.

In Indonesia, the Grand Indonesia Shopping Town is divided into three main districts: Specialty District, Main Mall District, and Crossroads of the World. The food court situated within Grand Indonesia Shopping Town is called Food Louver5. Food Louver serves international cuisines, including Taiwanese fried chicken cutlet and Balinese ayam betutu (a dish of steamed or roasted chicken or duck in rich betutu sauce mix)6. The dishes are priced affordably. A standard fried chicken cutlet meal that comes with sides and a drink costs approximately US$5.

Terminal 21 is an airport-inspired mall in Thailand. Each floor within the mall is themed according to different countries, where the product and food offerings are also catered to follow the theme7. The mall is decorated based on well-known streets in cities such as Rome, Paris, Tokyo, London and Istanbul. For example, some decorations on the San Francisco floor include sculptures of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Trams8. Terminal 21’s food court Pier 21 is located on the fifth floor, where it is themed after Fisherman’s Wharf. It houses famous local delicacies from Bangkok such as Skyluck, that has more than 300 branches in Thailand9,10. Their bestselling dishes include rice with yakitori chicken and curry omelets. Another notable food outlet in Pier 21 is Dragon X, which is popular for their roasted duck with rice or buckwheat noodles drenched in sesame sauce11,12.

Located in Singapore, the food court in City Square Mall is themed after the now defunct New World Amusement Park, which attracted Malaysia and Singapore night crowds from the 1920s to the 1960s13. Decorated with antique coffee and tea aluminum tins and vintage delivery bikes along with a wall mural featuring Nonyas in sarong kebayas, the food court offers a myriad of traditional dishes. The stalls are specially handpicked for their culinary flair and traditional flavors, serving dishes such as Hainanese chicken rice and ayam penyet14. Each of these stalls are modelled after the vibrantly-colored Peranakan shop houses, selling dishes that used to be sold at the iconic amusement park during its heyday15.

With new trends, traditional establishments are slowing dying out. This has led to various efforts to preserve traditional delicacies. For example, popular YouTubers Night Owl Cinematics uploaded a video dedicated to old school eats in Singapore to promote the traditional establishments and recipes that have descended from generation to generation16. The video can be viewed here.


1 JLL Real Views. (2016). Playtime meets shopping in China’s malls. [online] Available at: http://www.jllrealviews.com/places/playtime-meets-shopping-in-chinas-malls/

2 Chapman Taylor. (2015). Themed Retail: to theme or not to theme. [online] Available at: http://www.chapmantaylor.com/en/insights/article/themed-retail-to-theme-or-not-to-theme/en/

3 McKinsey & Company. (2017). Meeting millennials where they shop: Shaping the future of shopping malls. [online] Available at: http://www.mckinsey.com/industries/capital-projects-and-infrastructure/our-insights/meeting-millennials-where-they-shop-shaping-the-future-of-shopping-malls

4 Channel NewsAsia. (2017). Korean-themed mall opens in Bangkok. [online] Available at: http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/lifestyle/korean-themed-mall-opens-in-bangkok-8697490

5 Complex. (2013). The 50 Coolest Malls in the World. [online] Available at: http://ca.complex.com/pop-culture/2013/07/the-50-coolest-malls-in-the-world/westfield-london-shopping-centre

6 Food Network. (u.d). Chicken with Balinese Spices: Ayam Betutu. [online] Available at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/chicken-with-balinese-spices-ayam-betutu-recipe-1911222

7 The Register. (2016). Terminal 21: A Bangkok mall with bathrooms that won’t disappoint. [online] Available at: http://theregister.co.nz/opinion/2016/08/terminal-21-bangkok-mall-bathrooms-wont-disappoint

8 Travel Penchant. (2015). Terminal 21 Shopping Mall. [online] Available at: https://travelpenchant.wordpress.com/2015/04/03/terminal-21-shopping-mall/

9 I am Wannee. (2015). Food court at Terminal21… The best food court in Bangkok. [online] Available at: http://www.iamwannee.com/food-court-at-terminal21-the-best-food-court-in-bangkok/

10Bangkok Bits. (2016). The complete guide to Pier 21 (Terminal 21), Bangkok’s best food court. [online] Available at: http://www.bangkokbits.com/food/the-complete-guide-to-pier-21-terminal-21/

11 Travel Breathe Repeat. (2017). Cheap eats in Bangkok at Terminal 21. [online] Available at: http://www.travelbreatherepeat.com/cheap-eats-in-bangkok-at-terminal-21/

12 Cavin Teo. (2016). Pier 21 food court within terminal 21. [online] Available at: http://cavinteo.blogspot.sg/2016/06/pier-21-food-court-within-terminal-21.html

13 National Library Board. (u.d). The three worlds in Singapore. [online] Available at: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/sure/the-three-worlds-in-singapore/

14 Food Republic. (u.d). Food Republic @ City Square Mall. [online] Available at: http://foodrepublic.com.sg/stores/food-republic-city-square-mall

15 The Smart Local. (2014). Food Republic Themes You Always Suspected Were There But Could Never Confirm. [online] Available at: http://thesmartlocal.com/read/food-republic-themes

16 Night Owl Cinematics. (2017). FOOD KING: Old School Eats in the West! [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5EhiDPnO-54