A large blaze in a multi-storey Auckland building started in one of the commercial kitchens inside the foodcourt.
Emergency services were called to the scene on Kent St in Newmarket just before 3pm.
More than 50 firefighters battled to extinguish the blaze that broke out on the ground floor of the Newmarket Plaza.
The assistant area commander Mike Shaw said the fire started at a busy time of day in the popular shopping district.
Mr Shaw said the evacuation was difficult because of the various businesses inside the building.
"With a carpark above it was pretty hard to ascertain how many people were driving in there, parking and moving around.
"So obviously once we arrived there our priority was to evacuate the building, which we did very quickly, remove everybody from the risk and then set about making an attack on the fire."
One resident, who lives next door to the plaza, said she was asleep for almost an hour while the crews worked on the fire.
"I could see all the smoke coming out the back behind the building and coming out the front here, so there's just one building between us, but the roofs are attached to the Rialto building, so I figured if it spread, then yes we would be in a bit of trouble."
Many evacuees had their cars parked inside the building, including a woman who was worried for her dog, which was trapped in the car.
Fire and Emergency New Zealand says the fire has been put out and it may take an investigator a few days to determine its cause.