Location. Location. Location. It’s a cliche for a reason. Before you fold the napkins or add a dash of anything, you need to settle on a location. This should never be an afterthought. You can have the best food in the world and still be hungry for customers if you are not in the right location. Location is really the key to the success of your restaurant. Even if you have the “perfect” spot in mind, don’t get too attached until you do a little research first.
Here are four factors to consider on finding the correct location for your restaurant.
Are there enough people in your area to have a regular customer base? You don’t want to rely on Census Bureau data alone. You want to check factors such as neighborhood demographics and population projections. If, for example, there is a heavily Italian population in your desired location, you’re not likely to have much success with a Japanese restaurant. One way to determine if a location is right for your restaurant is to do a site study. A less expensive alternative is to do a little research on your own. If you contact the local municipality where you want to locate your restaurant, they can provide population projections and other useful info.
Building a restaurant by a busy highway is also a cliche for a reason: it works! You may have the right demographics and population requirements, but it doesn’t matter if customers can’t easily get to your restaurant. Even if there are plenty of ways to get to your restaurant, you’re not in the clear just yet. Look at details such as current traffic patterns and projected traffic patterns to determine if congestion will be a major barrier to customers trying to make it to your restaurant.
So, the population in your desired location is just fine for your expected customer base and there are no major barriers to keep customers from getting to your restaurant. The next step is to look at your parking situation. Ideally, it would be best to have your own parking lot for customers. If this is not possible, you’ll want to check on the availability of public parking. Dig a little and find out how busy your desired location is at different time of the day. While crowds are great for business, non-stop crowds may not be so great for parking – especially if people are just parking by your restaurant because it’s convenient.
Visibility also plays a role when it comes to location. This is why it is more expensive to locate a restaurant right in the heart of the downtown shopping district. It is great to have a cool website with a link to a Google map showing exactly where you are located, but don’t underestimate the impact of walk-in business. More customers than you might think make last minute dining decisions based on what restaurants they happen to see when walking or driving while they are hungry.
Location can make the difference between a successful restaurant and a good idea that never really got off the ground. It is all about finding the right ingredients – the right combination of a desirable location, key demographics, and available parking – when cooking up a recipe for a successful restaurant.
What has been your experience when starting your own restaurant? Leave a comment below.
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