Workers at the Prudential Center will have to make new lunch plans soon.
The food court at the Shops at the Prudential is scheduled to close at the end of June, and its replacement, a massive Eataly marketplace, won’t open for more than a year.
Many Bostonians welcome the plans for Mario Batali’s hip Italian food emporium, but workers at the Pru are also mourning the impending loss of Panda Express, Regina Pizzeria, Boston Chowda, and other quick-lunch options at the food court.
“It’s not so great for the people upstairs,” said Andrew Worthington, who works for a bank and munched on noodles from Panda Express on a recent lunch break. “The food court is kind of a mainstay.”
The Shops at the Prudential opened in 1993 and helped stitch together Copley Place, the Prudential Tower, the Hynes Convention Center, and several hotels, in part with an enclosed pedestrian walkway. In addition to traffic from the adjoining facilities, hundreds of hungry workers in the complex’s three office towers descend upon the nearly two-decades-old food court each workday. Last week, long lines snaked around the food counters, and it was hard to find a seat during lunch hour.
Boston Chowda, a longtime vendor, earned $200,000 a year selling soups and lobster rolls to the crowds, co-owner Michael Lamattina said.
“We’re struggling right now,” Lamattina said about having to close his business. “We’ve been there 25 years. It’s a huge bummer.”
Boston Properties, which owns the property, declined to comment.
Retail analysts say it’s unusual for an American mall not to offer a traditional food court.
Some applaud the decision to open an Eataly, which hopes to draw 5 million customers a year, in the space in September 2016. At least until the marketplace opens, the lunch-scene void is an opportunity for other businesses, said Ani Collum, a partner at the Norwell consultancy Retail Concepts.
Collum said food trucks and other mobile vendors should set up near the Pru to cash in because time-strapped workers may not have a long enough break to eat at a restaurant. Nearby establishments would also be smart to offer to deliver to the office buildings, she said.
“It’s thousands of people who now have nowhere to go to lunch,” Collum said. “It’s a huge opportunity.”
Lamattina said his Haverhill company has spoken with Boston Properties about offering temporary food services, but there are no plans in place.
Regina Pizzeria plans to continue to deliver to the office towers, which made up much of its business at the food court, from an existing location on Boylston Street.
Still, some workers are concerned about the changes.
“I’ll be upset to lose the convenience of this place, and I’m upset that we’ll lose choices,” said Alexander Scharff, a salesman at Saks Fifth Avenue who eats at the food court five times a week.