Although having a good menu and a professional staff is important to an eatery’s success, having a favorable location will give the business those extra points for convenience.
Location, location, location. This is every real estate agent’s mantra. Regardless whether buyers are looking for a home to raise their family or a space to house their business, the location of the property makes or breaks the potential for a sale (See Bielat Santore & Company’s first Restaurant Tip of the Month about Choosing the Right Location). This holds especially true in the food industry where every restaurant is competing to stand out in the categories of taste, service, and experience. However, although having a good menu and a professional staff is important to an eatery’s success, having a favorable location will give the business those extra points for convenience. Below are some red flags to look for when choosing a restaurant location that will help in the long run.
Rule #1: If it takes a random walk through an alleyway or an accidental turn down a one-way road for people to stumble upon a restaurant, it may be wise to consider whether the location is right for the business. Restaurant space should be someplace that is routinely passed by and close to other shops and businesses. Food Newsfeed urges restaurateurs to canvas the area, paying attention to foot and car traffic patterns. What types of people are frequently walking by and where are they heading to? For instance, if consistently women with young kids are strolling past at the same time each morning, they may be dropping their children off at the nearby elementary school, giving the opportunity to open earlier for breakfast or incorporating more kid-friendly options into the menu. Or if the town is home to a popular theater that makes weekends and evenings the big nights out, offering quiet, elegant dinners in a white-tablecloth setting might be the perfect addition to the city for after the show. If the restaurant concept cannot cater to local pedestrians, then the location may not be the best fit.
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Sure, many restaurateurs hope that once five o’clock hits their bar stools will fill up with people looking to de-stress from the work day with cocktails and appetizers. But if the bar is not on their way to the car, they most likely won’t go through the hassle. So, if customers need to circle the block ten times before nabbing a spot even remotely close to the restaurant, chances are their next night out will be at the eatery down the street… near the parking garage. In some big cities where getting around on foot is the preferred form of travel, there is less emphasis on customer parking lots and valet services. But for those commuting further than a short bike trip away, making sure there is ample parking around the property is always helpful.
Just as chefs need a good amount of space in the kitchen to prepare the food, the customers need more than a small corner to enjoy their meal in. Make sure that the space being either rented or bought meets certain size requirements. Eating with fear of getting an elbow bumped by the waitress as she walks past or being constantly asked to move the seat in so someone can squeak behind is the opposite of a comfortable dining experience. Guests should be able to relax while they’re eating and not feel like their sharing a bread bowl with the couple at the table next to them (“Is that your fork or mine?”) Not only are the guests at ease, but more space to roam reduces employee accidents by minimizing slips, trips and falls, the most common workplace accident. Running back and forth from the kitchen to the dining room with little room to showcase a tray of desserts or pour a glass of wine calls for one unsightly disaster (perhaps while holding the tray of desserts or the bottle of wine).
Lack of Research
A new restaurant can be distinguished by its excellent service and consistently wonderful food, according to Food Newsfeed. However, an area can only support so many of the same type of restaurant. A towns eighth Chinese food joint is not going to get locals rushing to get in line when they open their doors considering there are already enough Chinese take-out spots to cover every night of the week. Just because the other locations have not called it quits, does not mean that residents are craving another place to get General Tso’s Chicken (even though it’s extremely tasty). See what other businesses in the area are flourishing and then determine where the need is and if it will cater to the right crowd. For example, opening an after-hours diner next to the already busy nightclub, may be the exact direction hungry patrons need after a night at the club.
Checking Out the Previous Tenants
A restaurant owner wouldn’t purchase a table without checking to see if it is wobbly first, would they? The same goes for choosing a restaurant’s location. According to Entrepreneur, a poor choice of location is sometimes impossible to repair, so zeroing in on the previous tenants is a smart business move. By opening a restaurant in the building where the last five eateries failed, may be starting out with a dud right out of the gate. People who are familiar with the location may assume that the restaurant will tank just as the others did. Do some research to find out what went wrong before and use that as a guide to success this time around.
Seeing any of these red flags while on the hunt for the perfect restaurant location is a sure sign that the business may not mirror the vision expected. Before signing the lease or making an offer, be sure that the location hits all the check marks needed to succeed.
About the Author: Courtney Ciandella has been the sole Marketing liason for Bielat Santore & Company since 2013. She is also the conductor behind the Who’s Who in the Restaurant Industry and Restaurant Tip of the Month series.