Visitors to the midway at Circus Circus have long had one dining option over the years—decades, actually. But the McDonald’s will soon have some company in the latest example of food courts changing with the times.
The concept of the casino food court has evolved quite a bit in Las Vegas in recent years, with major Strip resorts such as Harrah’s, the Cosmopolitan and this year’s arrival, Resorts World, bringing sweeping innovations to the familiar and casual culinary option.
While the size, design and variation at food courts continues to change, incorporating strong brands remains an important component, said Lincoln Spoor, founder of Feel Good Brands. His company operates food courts at Excalibur, Treasure Island and a new space opening in a few weeks at Circus Circus.
“We are so excited because [guests] have been walking by what was the buffet space and wondering what is going on,” Spoor says. “And then they look at all these brands coming to Circus Circus, some of the best brands out there, and it’s like, holy cow. It should be one of the better food courts on the Strip, especially considering all the improvements going on at the property.”
In addition to bringing outlets of Dairy Queen Grill, Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen, Pick Up Stix and Einstein Bros. Bagels to Circus Circus, the $9 million project also involves relocating and expanding a Krispy Kreme Doughnuts store that has been on the property for 20 years, and replacing Auntie Anne’s pretzel shop with a brand-new Del Taco restaurant in March.
The food court marks a continuing reinvigoration of the 53-year-old casino resort since MGM Resorts International sold it to Phil Ruffin two years ago.
The family-friendly demographics at Circus Circus and long-running carnival midway entertainment on the second floor of the property are an obvious fit for the food court, Spoor says. His company just had to wait until the right time to partner with the casino.
“Feel Good Brands has made a substantial investment in taking the food choices at the property to a new level, and this expansion is just one of many exciting new developments we have coming soon to our world-famous property,” wrote Shana Gerety, senior vice president of operations at Circus Circus, in an email to Vegas Inc.
“We believe this is truly what the property was missing and cannot wait for our guests and team members to experience the new food court,” she continued.
The McDonald’s near the midway is still open, and there’s also a stand-alone McDonald’s drive-thru just outside Circus Circus and its adjoining Slots a Fun casino steps away on Las Vegas Boulevard.
“McDonald’s had a monopoly for 30 years on fast food and any cuisine type other than pizza,” Spoor said. “We were able to come in and give guests what they want—choices and nationally or regionally strong brands.”
Feel Good Brands was founded in 1998 when Spoor opened the first Krispy Kreme west of the Mississippi in Las Vegas at Excalibur. The castle-themed resort is site of the group’s initial Las Vegas food court, which now also includes its own eatery dedicated to french fries, Frites. There’s also food court favorites such as Cinnabon and Schlotzsky’s.
Additionally, the mini-court—just a few months old—in the former sportsbook space at Treasure Island, another of Ruffin’s casinos, has food court staples such as Popeye’s and Pick Up Stix.
“TI is pretty much done, but I would love to put a Del Taco there,” Spoor said. “When they closed the buffet and opened the [Gold Circle] sports bar, that enabled us to put in these two concepts, and we’re looking for more. There’s other space there. Phil Ruffin is a brilliant operator and he sees value where no one else does.”
Feel Good Brands just wrapped up a series of hiring events to fill more than 80 positions at all three casino food courts.
This story appeared in Las Vegas Weekly.