Long gone are the animatronic chefs that would speak in thick French accents as you were sitting down to eat in Westfield Montgomery mall’s food court.
Since last October, the shopping mall conglomerate has embarked on a $90 million renovation and expansion of the Bethesda property that has included getting rid of the traditional food court concept altogether.
Now, it’s the Dining Terrace, packed with modern-style seating, 40-foot- high ceilings, five mature trees and soon to be home to three full-service restaurants, plus the escalator entrance to a luxury 16-screen movie theater out of Los Angeles.
“We started to get feedback from retailers and customers a few years ago that we needed to raise our game a little bit, bring a little bit of a new face to the property,” said Westfield’s Eric Allen on a Wednesday media tour. “We really fel that this move will help position us as the retail destination of choice in Bethesda.”
Many of the mall’s fast casual food options remain with new fixtures, signage and furniture. The yet-to-be-opened section of the Dining Terrace will include restaurants such as Cava Mezze Grill, Naples 45 Ristorante e Pizzeria and Boston-based steak and seafood favorite MET, which will be known as MET Bethesda.
Cava is expected to open in November. The movie theater, ArcLight Cinemas’ first foray outside of the Los Angeles area, should open in October.
Gretchen McCourt, an executive vice president with ArcLight, said it’s one of the few theaters to offer a mix of big Hollywood blockbusters and more speciality films.
It’ll have pre-reserved seating, large seats and take up the upper floors of what used to be a parking garage.
The $90 million worth of work included many of the lounge areas, seating and fixtures that have been installed throughout the mall, which has also worked hard to add new restaurants such as Blaze Pizza, the Cheesecake Factory and Bobby’s Burger Palace throughout the property.
But the crown jewel is no doubt the Dining Terrace. It’s double the size of the food court many came to know and love, and with what Westfield says is a more diverse roster of dining selections.
“What we had before was a food court,” Allen said, “a lot of quick-service offerings, seating packages. This is a new prototype.”