Ontario Mills’ Big Food gets much, much smaller

Ontario Mills’ food court, once dubbed “Big Food,” has just gotten a lot smaller.

Most of the food court’s tenants, including Kenny Rogers Roasters, La Salsa Fresh Mexican Grill, Everything Yogurt and Salad Cafe, Kelly’s Cajun Grill, Jody Maroni’s Sausage Kingdom and Cinnabon, had their last day of business today (December 31).

Also closed is the Cheesecake Factory Bakery Cafe, located across from the food court.

Bruegger’s Bagels, Burger King and Sbarro will remain open, but only until April.

Outside the food court, Starbucks will also remain open until April.

All the affected restaurants were franchises operated by HMS Host.

Panda Express closed today as well, but will reopen after a remodel at the end of February. Panda Express is not operated by HMS Host.

The standalone Wetzel’s Pretzels and Hagen-Dazs are unaffected.

We first got queries about this a few weeks back, when I had a reader email me that he heard that the food court was closing, so I asked our Ontario reporter to check on it. She was told by a mall representative that the food court wasn’t shutting down, but they were considering renovating it in the new year.

Uh huh.

On Friday, we got another email from a reader stating that Cinnabon and most of the food court was closing today.

Again, I asked our Ontario reporter if she heard anything.

She found that on Wednesday, a woman posted on the Ontario Mills Facebook page that she heard that Cinnabon and most of the food court was closing. The response from Ontario Mills was that they are closing for remodeling and some new restaurants will open in March and that a completely new food court is expected by June.

I was able to reach a few of the restaurants by phone Friday to confirm, then went out to the Mills today to check it out for myself.

There was nothing in the food court that said that the restaurants were closing. No signs proclaiming a brand new food court in June 2012. Nothing. I found that odd.

I spoke to a few of the food court employees to try to determine exactly which restaurants were closing.

I finally got a definitive answer from an employee of one of the three food court locations that’s staying open until April. What happens after April is anyone’s guess. The franchises could remain open under a different franchisee, or could be gone completely after the remodel.

So enjoy Burger King, Sbarro and Bruegger’s while you can. They might not be around long.

Update: As folks are pointing out on our Facebook page, the Ontario Mills Kenny Rogers Roasters was the last U.S. location for the chain, which still has restaurants in Malaysia, Philippines, Bangladesh, China, Brunei, Singapore and Indonesia. At one time, there was another Inland Empire location in Hemet.

Most of the restaurants have been at the mall since the opening of the food court 15 years ago with the exception of Jody Maroni’s, which was originally a World Links, if my memory serves.