Your vision of the perfect restaurant is likely to involve such aspects as a delectable menu, a fabulous and inviting dining area, and a state-of-the-art kitchen. To have a booming business, all of these lovely elements must come together at the perfect restaurant location. Whether your business goal is to become the most happening spot in town or if you are looking for more of a unique, off-the-beaten-path experience for your patrons, these logistical and statistical tips on how to pick the right restaurant location will serve you well.
A driving factor in getting customers in the door is proximity to your direct competitors. It is a good idea to take a page out of the successful restaurant franchise playbook. A researcher interviewed for Entrepreneur.com admitted that he advises his big-name clients, such as Subway and Arby’s, to build near their biggest competitor. The logic being that your successful competitor has already done the legwork for you in building a customer base—saving you money on your marketing and advertising budget. Your location will benefit from the current traffic that your competitor receives.
To differentiate your restaurant from the others, offer enticing incentives such as coupons or free samples to lead the customer in your direction.
Negotiate your way to a better lease deal. At the start of your restaurant venture, it can be uncomfortable considering what to do if the business fails. Of course, you want to lead with good intentions, but every savvy upstart must also prepare for the unknown. Most commercial leases offer a multiple-year contract; five or ten years. But as a new business owner, you will want to speak with the property owner about a short-term lease to start as some lease contracts require lessors to continue to pay monthly rent even if the business goes under.
Once you establish your business in the community and gain a loyal customer following, then you may ask to re-negotiate for a longer lease term.
Here are some common sense questions you should ask yourself and your potential new landlord when embarking upon your search for the perfect restaurant location:
- Is this facility zoned for businesses that serve food or alcohol? One of the first things to check out when you are selecting a location for a restaurant is exactly what uses the building is permitted to be used for under the local zoning scheme.
- Does this space provide adequate room for all aspects of my operation (e.g., kitchen, dining area, point of sale counter)? You should have a pretty good idea of the size of the restaurant operation that you want to establish.
Of the basic requirements with a location will be that it is large enough for you to set up a restaurant of your desired size and concept. Health and safety laws will dictate how many people can occupy the building, so you should find out about these requirements before you start looking at locations. You may end up deciding that the property that you thought was perfect is too small for the clientele you need to attract.
- Do I need to set aside money for repairs to ensure that space fits my needs? Different locations will have different costs associated with converting an available space into a restaurant. One big factor affecting the scale of renovations will be the buildings’ previous use. If the previous owner also ran a restaurant on a site, then remodeling requirements should be minimal.
Should keep remodeling costs to a minimum if you are leasing a space for your restaurant. You could consider spending more if you are able to negotiate with the building owner and have them contribute to these costs. The length of your lease will also be a factor in determining how much to spend.
Along with a building inspector or some contractors who have had experience remodeling buildings for restaurant owners and ask them for their ideas on renovation costs.
- Does space complement the aesthetic/theme of my business? Take a good look at the sidewalks and other buildings that are around the location that you have in mind. They can sometimes affect a prospective diner’s impression of your business. You will have little control over your neighbors, so you want to choose a restaurant location with surroundings that are neat, tidy, and well maintained.
- Does the exterior make my business easy to find at night and safe for my customers to reach? You will notice that restaurants are usually located in areas with good accessibility and are close to business districts and residential areas. Being accessible will ensure that you can attract the volumes of people that you need to sustain your business. Stand outside the building that you are considering using to open your restaurant. Count vehicle and foot traffic flows and compare them with other locations that you are considering.
The exception to the rule here is if you have an ‘out of the way’ location such as at a beach or a vineyard, for example. Sometimes the unusual location of a restaurant can become a selling point. Keep in mind that under the right circumstances, people value features such as a beach view or mountain scenery over convenience and accessibility.
- Does the facility provide enough parking for my customers? You should have a fairly good idea of how customers would arrive at a restaurant at your proposed location. A great restaurant will ideally have its own parking lot. Depending on your concept, nearby public parking may also be acceptable. However, keep in mind that many people will simply drive on to another restaurant if they have nowhere to park their car. Note that in some cities, proximity to public transport can be more important than parking.
- Should I Lease or Buy
You need to decide if leasing or buying premises for your restaurant would be the best move. Both options have their advantages and disadvantages. Most restaurant entrepreneurs start out leasing and preserve their capital for startup costs and business growth rather than investing in property at the same time.
Some preliminary discussions with building owners and try to get an idea of how flexible they are going to be on the terms of a lease. Reaching an agreement over a lease can be a lengthy process, so it helps if you can deal with building owners that you can communicate well with. They should be open to negotiation and discussion.
- Area Demographics and Market Research? Think about what kind of neighborhood your proposed restaurant space is located within. Then think about the kind of restaurant that would be suitable for the surrounding residents. Take some time to study the demographics of the area to try to find out the age, ethnic background, and socio-economic status of the local population.
When you decide to start a restaurant, keep in mind that location is one of the most important factors that will determine your success. Consider the above criteria as you work through the selection process. The building that you choose should not only be in a prominent location, but it should also be practical and functional to allow your restaurant to run smoothly.