Restaurant locations should be picked strategically. If you have a restaurant that doesn’t have enough “traffic,” you’ll have to work harder to promote it and may ultimately fail. Assuring that your restaurant location is a good location can be difficult.
There are also times when what appears to be a good location on a bustling city street simply is not.
Avoid Local “Curses” When Picking a Location
I live in a city that is known for its breweries, and there’s one location that seems like the perfect fit, but all of the breweries that open there fail. I have seen three breweries all in the same location fail, but less than a mile away, all of those establishments have been there for years.
Another example is a cute place for a diner which has a lot of traffic passing by at all times. Walmart is close by as well as Chick-fil-a, nail salons – everything. But restaurants keep trying and failing at the location.
What seems like the perfect spot for a restaurant may not be.
If multiple restaurants have opened in the same place and failed, you should overlook this potential restaurant location.
For some reason, these are the locations most experts would think would be great for a restaurant, but they fail.
Visibility is a Must If You Want the Restaurant to Succeed
What’s the best place to open a restaurant? An area with great visibility. If your restaurant is too far out of the way, you won’t be able to sustain a customer base. Yes, there are exceptions to this rule, and this exception may be a 5-star restaurant or a restaurant that has such good food that people will travel to eat there.
But that’s not always the case.
You don’t want to open your business on the “hope” that someone will come – you need some form of traffic.
There's also the benefit of free advertising. Restaurants or even sub shops that are open near large grocery stores do well because people pass them every day. A location that is great for restaurants may be:
Close to major retailers
Close to the highway
Close to other successful businesses
When a restaurant is visible, it reminds potential customers that your restaurant exists. People that are hungry on the way home from work may see your restaurant’s sign and stop in to eat because it’s in a great, visible location.
If you’re looking for the best places to open a restaurant, there’s a good chance that the visibility will always be exceptional.
Parking Means a Lot to Would-be Customers
There’s no way around it: people are lazy. No one wants to walk a long distance to go to a restaurant. Parking, and accessible parking, is going to be very important in non-urban areas. In a city where people are used to walking or taking public transportation, this is much less of an issue.
One of the cities near me has a great tourism industry, and there’s sparse parking spots near many restaurants.
But there are parking garages a block or two away from most eateries. Being in a city, no one really minds walking a short distance to a restaurant.
If a customer is willing to drive a long distance or even 20 minutes to your restaurant that is outside of town or on the outskirts of the city, they will not want to have issues with parking.
Pay Close Attention to the Building If It’s Pre-existing
If you plan on purchasing a building that already exists, you need to be very picky with your purchase. The building will also mean a lot to your success, and there are two things that really matter here:
Size. The size of the building is very important. You need to have adequate space for the safety of your guests and their comfort. You should also have a waiting area or lounge where guests can wait until a table is ready. If the area is too cramped, a lot of potential customers will not wait outside or come back if they can’t move their chairs without hitting the person behind them.
Safety. How safe is the building? Safety is very important to your customers, and this will include having all of the basics:
Handicap accessible doors
Meet local code enforcement requirements
You also want to take a look around your neighborhood. Perhaps there are three other Italian restaurants in the same plaza. Would you be able to find success here? Maybe, but it’s probably not the best restaurant startup location by any means.
But perhaps there are other successful businesses in the area, and these businesses will be to your benefit.
These successful businesses may help you attract customers, and this is why it’s very important to know your neighbors.
Population and Tourism Will Matter
Locations for restaurants are not always as they seem. Let's take a small town with 500 people. You may be a major hit in the town if you open up your own breakfast diner, or you may fail. Why?
The population cannot sustain your business.
There's also the consideration that there is a lot of loyalty in a small town. If you’re competing with another diner that has been open for decades, you may find that the locals are less likely to frequent your establishment.
Small towns are often an enigma because they will purposely ignore new restaurants and businesses if they know that they’re supporting a local.
There needs to be a need for a restaurant in the location, and there needs to be a population than can help keep the lights on. The larger the city, the greater chance you’ll have of breaking free of this local loyalty.
But what happens if you live in a small town in the mountains?
Perhaps you know the right spot for a restaurant, but the population is low. What can you do? Check out the local tourism statistics. A lot of smaller towns survive on tourism, and if your town is one of them, it may be possible to lure in tourists to keep money flowing into the business.
Restaurant location analysis should be done to determine how much potential business is available.
Demographics will also come into play. Different age groups will go to different types of restaurants. A good rule of thumb, and of course it changes from one city to the next, is that:
Fast food restaurants have a demographic of 15 – 35. These establishments are really meant for those customers that are out with their friends and want something to eat or returning home and don’t want to cook. These are normally unplanned, fast-paced customers.
Bars and bistros have customers that are normally 25 to 45 years of age. These are customers that want to relax, and they will normally come to the bar or bistro after work.
Casual dining is meant for families, and this can be families with kids that are still in their mid-teens.
Fine dining is really reserved for people aged 35 and older. These are couples and executives who are willing to pay more and book their reservations in advance.
You need to consider your demographics, too, so that you can determine if the location and population is the right choice for your restaurant.
Restaurant location matters a lot, and if you don’t pick the right location, you may just see your dreams of running a successful restaurant disappear.