Not every available space is right for a restaurant. A good restaurant location is harder to find than some people think. What may look like the perfect spot- say a bustling pedestrian street in the heart of downtown- may turn out to be a dud.
Other times a spot that you would never think to put a restaurant - like in an old shoe shop in a run-down mill town - is a success. Of course, food and service are important to the success of a restaurant, but the location can be just as crucial, especially in the early years. Read on for ten things you should know about selecting a restaurant location.
Parking Is a Must
People are lazy. There is just no way around it. If they have to walk a fair distance to get to your restaurant, they may opt to go somewhere else "more convenient." If you live in an urban area where everyone walks and there is public transportation, this is less of a factor. If you are thinking of a restaurant location out of town, in a place that requires you to drive to get there, you'd better have parking available. If your restaurant location doesn't come with a large parking lot, is it near a municipal parking lot for patrons to use?
Visibility Is Important
Setting up shop in a location with either high foot or car traffic is ideal. Making your restaurant (or restaurant sign) visible to the public is like free advertising. It reminds them that your restaurant exists and they should stop by for dinner sometime.
Size Does Matter
Even the smallest bistro or coffee shop requires adequate space for a kitchen, walk-in refrigerator, dry storage and an office for paperwork. Your dining room needs space for a wait-station and possibly a bar. What looks like a huge space for rent can quickly fill up with all the equipment needed to open a restaurant.
Understand the Curse
Some locations house one failed restaurant after another. Soon people associate the space - not necessarily the individual restaurant- with bad service, poor food, and lackluster ambiance.
Put Safety First
One of the first steps in choosing a restaurant location is finding out if the building is up to code. Does it have proper wiring, fire alarms, sprinkler systems, handicap-accessible doors, restrooms, ramps? A walk through the building with your local code enforcement officer will help you determine what needs to be done to a space before you open a restaurant.
Know Your Neighbors
When looking for a restaurant location, consider who else is doing business in the neighborhood. Are there already half a dozen restaurants with the same concept as yours? Is the area busy or full of empty storefronts? Successful businesses attract other successful businesses.
If You Build It, They Won't Always Come
Many restaurants are located off the beaten path and do quite well. But choosing to open a restaurant out of town, in a remote area is a gamble. Customers might visit for special occasions, but not on a regular basis.
You Can Negotiate Your Restaurant Lease
Many people are surprised to find out that they can haggle with prospective landlords about a lease. Not just about the monthly rent, but also about who pays for things like heat, snow removal, lawn care, general maintenance. Don't be afraid to ask for concessions when looking to rent restaurant space.
Don't Be Impulsive
You may visit one spot and decide that it is "the one." Before you start sketching out the dining room, be sure to visit multiple sites. And visit prospective restaurant sites during different times of days, during the week and on weekends. For example, is the area really busy during the work day and dead at night and on weekends? Patience pays off when selecting a restaurant space.
Understand the Commitment You Are Making
Before you sign a multi-year lease, consider the consequences if your restaurant fails. It isn't pleasant to think about, but if you are roped into a five or ten-year lease, your landlord can still demand monthly rent, even if you are out of businesses. Ask for a one or two year lease to start. Once you have established a successful restaurant, you can sign a longer lease.