In a famous Martini commercial a woman says to George Clooney standing on the threshold: “No Martini, No Party.” Even a sex symbol like George may be bounced back by women. You and your restaurant might be good-looking like the American actor, but if don’t choose the perfect location for your business, there is “no party” for you.
Once you have learned the essential characteristics to be a good restaurant manager, it’s time to know how to choose the perfect location for your restaurant. When you start your business on a strategic site, you are already halfway to achieving success. In fact, the location, especially for small businesses, plays a fundamental role in your prospects’ perception. When I say “location,” I refer both to the brick-and-mortar space in itself and the area where you want to start your restaurant. It is important to figure out what and where your ideal place should be in the business plan stage. You must put location at the top of your to-do list and look into the matter before opening; don’t place your business somewhere carelessly and follow the “we’ll see” mindset. If you get the wrong site, there is no God who can help you.
How to Choose the Right Restaurant Location
Whether you intend to create a restaurant from nothing by acquiring a vacant place or buying one that already contains all the required facilities, you’ll have to choose a good location that fits your needs. The following are the 7 site selection criteria that you must take into consideration when you scout out a location to open your restaurant.
The perfect places are not always in the city center or tourist areas. A critical factor, in fact, is if the area to your liking is both easily accessible by car and has good foot traffic. Moreover, it must be easy to explain on the phone and in your advertising flyers and posters (two lines at most). Remember, many people get lost going down the stairs of their home!
150 London Street, just in front of the American Mall.
160 Rome Street. Take the Milan Road, at the bottom of the street, after the level crossing, take the third road on your left. Then turn right into the first street past the traffic lights. Get on the highway for 5 km. Finally, take exit 86, and you will find the road signs to our restaurant.
If your location is anything like the second one, more than half of your potential customers will simply choose another place.
This is a significant ingredient to hook customers. If you don’t have any car park nearby, the restaurant will be affected. Almost no customer considers the presence of a parking lot as a determining factor in choosing one restaurant over another, but surely the difficulty in parking may discourage guests from visiting your outlet. Think about families with children; they carry pushchairs and bags of all kinds with them, and parking is crucial in deciding where to go. Or how about the difficulties that disabled people in wheelchairs may run into? Finally, the customer wants to feel safe and park their car without the anxiety of damage or theft. A scratch on their car door is enough to ensure that you won’t see a customer in your restaurant again.
Once I suggested that an Italian entrepreneur shouldn’t invest money in opening a restaurant in the place that he spotted as there was no parking nearby at all. In practice, if you parked the car within a radius of 1 mile you got a fine. I pointed it out to the entrepreneur, but he said: “Well, people who want to come to the restaurant will take a stroll.” Well, it seems that no one went for a stroll as the restaurant closed down with six months of opening.
3. Is your target there?
If you have read “how identify a restaurant’s target customer,” you should know about the focus on spotting a niche for your business. You must be sure that your niche, namely the people that are likely to eat in your restaurant, patronize the zone where you intend to open your restaurant. If you want to open a classy restaurant, does it make sense opening it in an area frequented by young people? If you want to put up an informal restaurant and entertain customers with live music until late at night, would you open in a peaceful residential area? You must know your target well and be clear on what their habits are and where they hang out.
Unlike the stores for which having many competitors around creates traffic foot, in the case of restaurants, it may affect revenue. Therefore, go for a drive around the neighbourhood where you have located an attractive site, and find out if there is any restaurant with the same concept as yours. Doing what someone else has already done will create conflicts, troubles, and “price wars”. Furthermore, being compared to someone else day in, day out will be exhausting in the long run. Instead, try to have your own personality and differentiate yourself from the others, while simultaneously having respect for those who got there before you.
If you’re the type of entrepreneur who says: “I go my own way, do what I like, and don’t care about what others are doing,” then I predict a short life for your restaurant. You will constantly have issues with your competitors, and things will turn out for the worse. Conversely, if you set up your food retail store in an area full of other restaurants but with a different concept, you may benefit. For example, if you run a restaurant for which the core product is fish, and you are surrounded by other places selling meat and pizza, all are likely to get advantages. The “mass” of retailers will draw people to the area as it will be seen like the “food court” of a shopping mall.
If you are seeking your fortune in the Food and Beverage field in London, there is almost no place which is not served by the means of transportation. However, if you choose a small city to try your luck in, I recommend looking into the available bus and metro lines. Many townies and tourists get around using these services, so there is no reason to pass up the opportunity to hook them.
In 2009, Mario – an Italian restaurateur – after returning from a pilgrimage to Lourde, quadrupled the daily profits of his small restaurant on the verge of bankruptcy. Miracle? Sure – the Mayor of Rome granted him his prayer and reactivated an underground station in front of his establishment.
6. Size matters
Every time I meet an entrepreneur who is a new entrant into the food business, the first thing they say is: “I don’t need a big site, one small kitchen and a dining room with not so many tables will be enough.” Since I’m here to speak about marketing and thoroughly examine every aspect that relates to the image of a restaurant, I won’t get into technical matters. But I’ll tell you that the size must fit your concept; if you present yourself as an informal and fast pizzeria, a tiny place may be ok. However, if you are a classy restaurant, a small dining room with tables stuck to one another will doom you to a place on the register of bankrupted companies.
7. Equipped, running or empty?
There are three types of restaurant to be assessed for acquisition:
- Those already provided with all required facilities and no longer in business. This is the fastest solution: the restaurant is equipped with everything, you just have to clean up and renovate. It may be a good way to save money. However, you must bring waves of freshness and create a good marketing plan.
- Those still in business. The restaurant that has already been started and is still active is the most dangerous and reckless of all the options. If a place works and earns well, then no one has an interest in selling. Or there might be something wrong, and the current owners don’t want to tell you by hiding behind the banal excuse “I’m tired, it’s time to retire.” Finally, be aware that statistically when a restaurant goes under new management, more than half of the regular clientele disappears.
Once my client called me, excited to say that he had struck a good deal. He had bought one of the most lucrative pizzerias in Rome. Unfortunately, he didn’t know that the owner of the building in which the restaurant was situated planned to restore the entire building, causing damage to the sales as the big terrace outside had to remain closed for one year.
- Those empty with no facilities at all. This is the ideal solution as you can organize the space as you want. The other side of the coin is that it might be expensive. Prepare yourself to invest a large amount of money.