Food courts are an interesting invention. A dozen or so crappy eating establishments, all vying for the same small quasi-sanitary space, have a problem: there is simply not enough room for all of these establishments to co-exist as separate entities, and if only one or two of the businesses win out over the rest their profits will probably drop due to decreased foot traffic. Solution: Food Court. Like the mighty Voltron, a super-powerful robot created from many smaller, suckier robots, the many crappy eateries merge together to form some new terrible super food monster.
The result of this unnatural transformation is very similar to the Voltron/Power Rangers/Devastator brand of super robot: the finished product sorta resembles each of its members but also loses something from each in the process. Your local food court might have a McDonald’s and a Taco Bell and a Pizza Hut, but it’s just not the same as if those restaurants lived next to each other on the same block. The menus are abridged; the prices are often different, and the atmosphere… there exists a very unique food court ambience, which is to say, you’re eating in the middle of a freaking mall, surrounded by obnoxious echoes and sticky seating. It’s not exactly the sort of place you bring a hot date. It’s more the sort of place you look forward to leaving as soon as possible.
I often wonder how future archaeologists will view the ruins of our present society. Will they be most fascinated by the fossilized computer parts dug up from Chinese landfills? Will they be smitten by the 500 tons of time-distorted Hello Kitty merchandise? I think anthropologists will be blown away by the sheer profundity of Food Court psychology. Why would financially stable people, at an institution created to exercise economic power (a mall), subject themselves to a dehumanizing trough-like cafeteria setting? Why wouldn’t they spring an extra buck and get a nice sit down meal at a restaurant only a short walk away? It is unanswered questions like these that delay our evolution into a more civilized species.