Restaurant Location with outdoor table and two chairs

Tips for Choosing the Best Restaurant Location

Restaurant Location

Determining the ideal location for your restaurant is a critical decision that can impact its success. But with so many options plus financial considerations, it can be hard to know where to start. The good news is that there are some excellent tips that can help you make a good choice for your restaurant.

Curious to learn more? Keep reading to find out some key tips that will help you choose the best restaurant location!

Look for the Most Visible Location

Visibility should be at the top of your priority list when you're choosing a location for your restaurant. A restaurant that is positioned on a busy road or in the middle of a growing area means that more people will see your space. And that translates to increased traffic — and sales.

Your restaurant needs to be accessible to diners, too. If it's off an exit from a major interstate or on the main road through town, that bodes well for accessibility. You don't want to be in a position where you're offering complicated explanations to people hoping to find your restaurant.

The reality is that if someone can't see or find your restaurant, they may never know you're there. They'll miss out on a great dining experience, and you'll miss out on some valuable sales. Aim to find a location that isn't off the beaten path.

You need a big, bold sign to display your restaurant's name so it can stand out from the crowd. When people are driving by at night, they should be able to read the text clearly and know that you're open. Add a bright awning or some signage around the windows, too, to help bring visibility.

Look into adding logo tables as another way to make your brand visible, even when diners are inside your space. It never hurts to remind diners where they're enjoying a delicious meal.

Know the Demographics of the Area

Studying the populations of the areas you're considering is another crucial step. Will your food and style go over better with a younger crowd? Or are you an upscale restaurant that suits an older demographic with more disposable income?

If you're hoping to establish a 24-hour retro diner, you'll probably have more success if you place it in an urban area populated by younger adults. Single twenty-somethings looking for a filling meal at any hour of the day will be your target demographic. You might also have success going with a popular tourist locale for that type of restaurant.

On the other hand, a family-friendly restaurant would fit better in a suburban landscape or near a mall. You'll have a better chance of attracting people on the way home from shopping or work.

Understand the population mix and density of a given area. Even if you find a great space, if it's far away from your target demographic, you can't count on the people you're hoping to become loyal diners driving to a distant location. This is particularly true if you live in an area prone to snowy or icy winters.

Is There Enough Parking Nearby?

Parking is a big and often overlooked issue. You might find a charming building with exposed beams and great lighting — but if it doesn't have accessible parking, that's a problem. And it's not a problem you should brush to the side.

Restaurant locations in strip malls or areas outside of cities may have better parking options because they are newer. Restaurant spaces tucked into city centers could rely on diners using street parking. Street parking can be both expensive and limited, and that may be a deterrent from dining at your restaurant.

You may find a location that enables you to add a parking lot. Be aware, however, that the average cost to build a parking lot starts at $10,000. You'd need to invest a significant amount of capital, and that might be too much of a risk. Consider the seating capacity of your restaurant as well as how many businesses nearby may be competing for parking.

Consider How Close You Are to the Competition

What kind of restaurant are you planning to open? If you're aiming to start a quaint cafe that serves pastries and fresh-roasted coffee, you don't want to do that across the street from a similar type of space. In other words, you don't want to be close to another establishment that overlaps too much with your offerings.

You'll set yourself up for a rivalry if you're too close to the competition. And as the new location in town, you can't bank on diners already loyal to the competition heading to your space instead. It's a big risk to plant yourself near a similar type of business.

When you're choosing a location for your restaurant, it's wise to plot out the locations of similar types of restaurants on a map before committing. It's also advisable to ask around and see if there's a need for your style of restaurant in the area. You might be able to provide just the type of dining establishment that a particular neighborhood has always wanted! 

Get the Crime Stats for the Location

Finding a location for your restaurant should involve researching the crime statistics for the area. You should be able to find this information online, or you can consult with local law enforcement. Get the stats before you sign a contract.

A place that looks perfectly safe in the middle of the day might be a hot spot for criminal activity at night. For a restaurant that specializes is in late-night dining, that's not a good match. People might not want to drive to a dicey area and park a nicer vehicle outside.

It's also a good idea to talk with other business owners in the area. They'll be able to share their experiences on any break-ins or other issues they've experienced. If you find out that everyone's trying to get out of their leases due to an increase in crime, that's a sign you should look elsewhere.

While it might be tempting to snatch the cheaper space, don't do that at the expense of safety. You'll miss out on nighttime foot traffic and you won't get the sales and visibility you need to thrive.

Investigate the History of Businesses at the Location

No restaurant location guide is complete without urging you to investigate the history of businesses in the area. Even if you're really excited about a spot for your restaurant, take the time to complete this step.

If you've lived in the area for a while, you may have seen businesses cycle in and out of certain locations frequently. It could be that the businesses were not a good fit for a particular space, but it may be that the location doesn't generate the necessary interest. That's a big mismatch for a new restaurant venture.

There are several questions you should ask a leasing agent or business owners in the area. Have there been many instances of businesses facing foreclosure? How long do businesses typically stay?

An area that is moving in the wrong direction should be avoided. You'll just set yourself up for struggles and even failure if you try to be the one to resurrect a certain part of town. Look for stability rather than a pattern of businesses coming and going.

Find Out About Upcoming Plans for the Surrounding Area

The last thing you want to do is open a restaurant in the middle of a construction zone. That's why it's a good idea to figure out what kinds of plans are in place for the surrounding area. Check with a chamber of commerce to get a sense of what development looks like down the road.

A chamber of commerce is an organization that pulls together business managers in the area. Ultimately, they are there to be a voice for you and a supporter. They'll want to help you succeed, so you can count on them to offer accurate input. And if you do plant your business in the area, you may want to join the chamber of commerce to increase exposure for your business.

Learning that there will be a new apartment complex going up across the street could be beneficial to your restaurant — once the construction is complete. But if you move into the restaurant when the apartment complex is breaking ground, you may need to deal with lots of noise and commotion. You might even find that the construction limits access to your restaurant for weeks or months at a time.

For these reasons, you should do your homework first. Consider the short-term issues caused by construction projects versus long-term gains. Understand the timelines for upcoming projects and consider how they will impact your bottom line. 

Choose a Restaurant Location that is Affordable

Do you plan on leasing or buying the space for your restaurant? You'll want to weigh the pros and cons of each option. If you're new to starting a restaurant, leasing could be the better and more affordable choice.

Leasing offers an opportunity to pay for building space on a monthly basis. Since you won't have to pay as much upfront, you can use more of your money toward stocking the space and hiring employees. It's smart to talk with a landlord to understand how much wiggle room there is with a lease — and how the monthly rates fit with your budget.

Buying a space outright gives you more control, but it is a significant investment. Building a restaurant from scratch means that you're laying a foundation for years to come. You'll need to pay out more on the front end and be absolutely sure that you're in the right place.

Take the time to map out a budget. You'll find out what's realistic — and know what your upper limit is. Know that you can always expand or upgrade down the road.

Understand the Condition of the Property

Exposed brick and original tin ceiling tiles are charming architectural features to find in a potential restaurant location, but they also indicate that the building is older. While this is not always a problem, it does mean you need to do a thorough audit of the space.

Asking an inspector to walk through the restaurant space and assess its condition is a good investment. They'll be able to look for structural issues or other red flags that might even dissuade you from choosing a particular location. When you're buying a building, you'll inherit all of its problems — and a place with lots of problems is problematic for your budget.

Even if you lease, knowing the condition of the location is critical. You want minimal disruption to your business, and you want to know what you are able to adjust or overhaul. You'll also want to know who is responsible for building updates and maintenance — and how quickly you can get ahold of someone.

Buildings with major problems can become a major headache. It's worth taking the time to look at anticipated costs for repairs and consider how much money or downtime you're able to commit. Ideally, you want a turnkey space that will allow you to get your business up and running as soon as possible.

Make Your Restaurant Dreams a Reality

Finding the ideal restaurant location takes time and research, but it's time well spent. Starting a restaurant requires a lot of energy and money, so you need to make sure you've picked the perfect place. Then you'll set the stage for great food and success!

When you're ready to get your restaurant stocked with the best seating options, contact us and we can help.

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