| SAN FRANCISCO
SAN FRANCISCO May 28 Australian shopping plaza
operator Westfield Group launched a food-ordering pilot
program on Wednesday, becoming the latest in the mall industry
to test ways to stem a consumer drift toward e-commerce and away
from brick-and-mortar stores.
Westfield said that if successful the program, dubbed "Dine
on Time", could serve as a platform for rolling out other
services in future that would help its network of nearly 90
malls worldwide compete against e-commerce rivals like
Amazon.com Inc. Pilots like these represent Westfield's
effort to use technology and features already available online
to blunt convenience advantages held by e-commerce companies.
Starting Wednesday, customers who frequent Westfield's
shopping plaza in downtown San Francisco can order food from 15
of the food court's 45 restaurants. They can also schedule a
pickup or have it delivered in a three-mile radius.
"We believed there was a lot we can learn out of that
category (food ordering) that would ultimately enable us to do
the other categories that much better," Westfield's Global Chief
Digital Officer, Kevin McKenzie, said in a recent interview.
Allowing shoppers to order from the food court online or on
the phone could help the mall become more of a central hub for
consumers, McKenzie said. In the future, the program may help
Westfield stores deliver products that consumers order online
within the hour.
The pilot program is the latest move by Westfield Labs, a
division led by McKenzie that was set up to test out projects to
reinvigorate the 54-year-old company's shopping centers at a
time of declining foot traffic in malls and growing online
At an industry conference earlier this year, real estate
developer Rick Caruso said the typical U.S. mall will be viewed
as a "historical anachronism" within 15 years unless it is
That sentiment is shared at Westfield, which is stepping up
innovation efforts even as it goes through a financial
restructuring of its own.
"We want to move faster but you've got so many entities
you're doing with and no two malls are alike," McKenzie said.
Other Westfield pilot programs are being rolled out more
extensively this year. A London-based test that allows shoppers
to pay for parking using a wireless radio-frequency
identification tag on their windshield will be introduced in two
U.S. shopping centers and one in Australia this year.
Such experiments can help Westfield lay the groundwork for
next year's opening of its retail complex at the World Trade
Center site in New York, McKenzie said.
(Reporting by Deepa Seetharaman; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)