Wednesday, February 7, 2024

[UPDATE] First Domino Has Fallen at Disappointing Buckhead Food Hall

As much as they might hate to admit it, our earlier report has proven accurate, and it seems Simon is starting to see the error of their ways and has quietly switched out a bland out of town coffee shop for a local operator at their floundering Citizens Culinary Market at Phipps Plaza.   Cultivate Food + Coffee has replaced Ella Mia in Citizens and is likely the first of many such moves for the struggling operation.  

Johnny Liu of Cafe at Pharr among other businesses, debuted the original Cultivate location on Howell Mill Road in West Buckhead in early 2019.  The eatery quickly grew a following and become a popular destination for brunch goers and coffee goers alike.    Roast Magazine's Daily Coffee News included Cultivate in their "20 of the Most Exciting Coffee Shops in 2019" feature at the end of 2019.  

Additional locations were previously announced to be opening at The Battery Atlanta at the "beginning of 2023," Woodstock in "summer of 2023" and Alpharetta in "summer of 2023," according to the Cultivate website, but none of them opened last year and all have reportedly been pushed to "2024."  

According to Cultivate:

"Simple & Modern Served from the Heart. CULTIVATE is a trend-forward brunch & coffee concept & experience built on a foundation of farm-to-table culinary principles, truly world-class customer service, and an aesthetically positive atmosphere for all customers. We are a made fresh from scratch southern kitchen."  

All of this sounds good but it's incredibly difficult to deliver this level of service from a small counter.  Try as they might, it will also be darn near impossible to replicate the authenticity, vibe and ambiance of the West Buckhead outpost in the middle of a stale, contrived food hall in the middle of a mall.  Let's not forget too, that Alon's is also in the mall and is no doubt looking to capture a similar customer but has the advantage of its own dedicated space.  

Simon, which has a financial position in Citizens Market, also this past September saw Starbucks close its longstanding outpost in the mall, a move that a representative claimed would avoid cluttering one of the mall’s wings, which would “enhance the common area.”  After the closure Simon worked though signage and messaging to push business to Cultivate's predecessor, Ella Mia.  

Grab & go coolers were removed in favor of additional seating

At the end of the day, one of the biggest issues with Citizens is that is simply does not resonate with shoppers or residents.  More than eight months after opening and with eight different food concepts, the entire market has received only 56 reviews on Yelp.com with an overall rating of just 3.5 stars.  Based on our visits to the market, the most popular element is the bar, but with 25,000 square feet and an outdoor area, a popular bar is not going to keep this place in business.  

Have you been to Citizens Culinary Market?  Do you think adding Cultivate will "save" the business?  What local food hall do you think delivers the best overall experience? 

Please share your thoughts below 

39 comments:

Anonymous said...

The mall, especially a kind of quiet one like Phipps with high end stores, was an odd space for a food hall. It works at PCM because people can venture over from the Beltline and surrounding neighborhoods on foot and PCM is more of a casual destination, not an upscale enclosed mall. I live in Buckhead and it’s never occurred to me once to go to that food hall, because the rare times I go to Phipps it’s to make a return at Nordstrom, not hang around.

Anonymous said...

Needs a hookah lounge and a DJ.

Anonymous said...

Too expensive for the average shopper to swing by for a meal. Got to lower prices or change the concepts to more budget friendly options or its all destined to fail. IMHO

Anonymous said...

Move to the Little House on the Prairie please

Kevin said...

They need more QUALITY and DIVERSITY. Correct, the food stalls were mostly bland out-of-town and almost generic. Would love to see more diversity of the cuisine and the people serving the food (e.g. Vietnamese making quality Vietnamese food). We have a LOT of nationalities and great food, especially Buford Highway. Go take a page out of Politan Row's book and audition local food vendors.

Anonymous said...

To generic and not diverse and interesting vendors and food. Copy Politan Row and find real Vietnamese cooks serving Vietnamese, real Mexicans making tacos, etc. It's currently too bland and everyone is the same. Not interesting.

Anonymous said...

The average shopper isn’t shopping at Phipps lol.

Anonymous said...

Kinda sad... but the comment about the hookah and DJ...it would keep them "in business" but would also definitely mark the beginning of the end for that place, if it's not already on that path to begin with.

Have they tried... advertising?

Anonymous said...

On God frfr no cap 💯

Anonymous said...

You're crazy if you think people with money who aren't drug dealers or scammers still shop at Phipps. Rich professionals generally avoid establishments that require metal detectors.

Anonymous said...

"Farm to Table" ... Can we please retire that meaningless phrase please? "Sustainable" is another that is equally meaningless and needs to be retired. And of course there's the silly "Plant-based"....Ha Ha

Anonymous said...

Agree. However, PCM has local restaurants in the stalls of their food hall, where as Citizens is almost entirely food stalls run by Citizens that are not related to real life restaurants as far as we can tell. We work across the street from Phipps and have been following this project for years, and we're all very disappointed in it's result. VERY over priced food, too few employees, no clear parking for just the food hall, and NO SOUL. This type of thing works best when it's organic and the local community is involved. BIG let down!

Anonymous said...

Not just ALMOST generic - Citizens Markets have nearly the same exact food stalls in all of their national locations. That food IS generic and this whole project is a scam, as far as I can see. The only NON generic thing will now be this new coffee shop that IS local.

Anonymous said...

Equally meaningless phrases that need to stop being used: "chef-driven"; "Approachable food"-(--look out, its approaching!); "Hand-cut (fries or steaks-- as if that makes it better?); a restaurant that has a "beverage program"; and "homemade" dishes(food service permits do not allow food made outside the restaurant to be cooked at one's home and then brought in and served).

Anonymous said...

The food was subpar as were the options. Thats was my experience.

Anonymous said...

I think Anonymous @3:04 is having a medical event, someone call 9-1-1.

Zane B said...

I went to the food hall at Phipps. I can only assume the this is a Simon properties pathetic attempt at an upper class food court. This one has failed nearly as miserably as their location at the north Georgie premium outlets in Dawsonville. Their low point at the Dawsonville location is that the Chinese outlet cooks chicken nuggets and mixed them in varied sauces and sells it as proper quality Chinese food.

There is no excuse for a property management company (Simon) to be testing their luck in operating food service operations when they fail at attracting and managing stores worth buying from. The food court could be an attraction if you invite local food champions into show off what they do (and profit from it) rather then assume that Simmon properties can undercut the best and brights to create concessions which will line their pockets and pacify the masses mediocrely. Someone save our malls.

Anonymous said...

I recall the time in Phipps history when there were some good restaurants that fit very well into the mall environment and were an extension of that “high end” shopping experience. But that was another time.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget "house made". That onw really chaps my @$$.

Anonymous said...

Food there was terrible! Not to mention the service…when those two exists, of course the business won’t be surviving. Taste the food or start with, does the food hall even smell good? All I smell is old oil…pathetic place to call Food Hall.

Unknown said...

The comments above ring true...plus they have the audacity to want 20, 25 or 30% gratuity for food court service!

Anonymous said...

For you, they can open a restaurant that says “here’s a pile of shit. Cram it down your throat.”

Anonymous said...

They have the audacity to want a paycheck too. The nerve! They should just be glad YOU visited them.

Anonymous said...

What about ‘artisanal’ or ‘hand crafted’??

Ham said...

Kick out Lego Land and bring back a nice basic "Food Court". Also, bring back the Tavern at Phipps.

Anonymous said...

Yes bring back the Tavern and Pleasant Peasant!!!

Anonymous said...

The Tavern at Phipps crowd moved to Alpharetta/Milton and go to Avalon, where your odds of getting shot or carjacked are much lower.

Anonymous said...

And, don't forget to add "Craft cocktail" to those phrases that have to go.
"Locally sourced" means buying from the local wholesaler. Don't be fooled.

Anonymous said...

No, they didn’t

Anonymous said...

PARKING IS THE ISSUE! Make it easier for people to just stop by. This is not rocket science.

Anonymous said...

talk about avoiding the frickin real issue! who wants to go eat in a ghettofied hood, with suspect tainted food, and continual crime risk???


ann yoo noe dats rite!

Anonymous said...

I kno dass riit!

Anonymous said...

Changing the name from food court to food hall justifies the 50% markup, right?

Nobody that shops at Phipps is going to want to hang out at a mall food court. What are these corporate idiots thinking?

Anonymous said...

“Hey, let’s go to Phipps and see if we can find that overpriced food court with the lame offerings.” “Is it worse than the overpriced, lame offerings at Chattahoochee Food Works?” “Yeah, unfortunately, both places recruited food truck vendors to open stalls, but they didn’t press them to step up their quality. But they did get them to step up their prices to pay the outrageous rent.” The story: both places were organized by greedy real estate people naively attempting to copycat someone else’s idea.

Anonymous said...

Save Rite?

Anonymous said...

What language is that? Google translate doesn’t recognize it.

Anonymous said...

Exactly my thoughts. Same observation from day 1. They should have outsourced to local well known vendors and collected rent. I knew from the first day it was going to fail. Only good spot is the burger place imo.

Anonymous said...

They should tear it down and put back Belks.

Anonymous said...

Close it up and seal it off. Put nothing there instead.

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