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July 10, 2013

Location, Location, Location.

FC_content_IMG_locationWe all know of that restaurant space that seems to change hands more times than shares in the
futures market. “Wow,” you think, “must be a real loser location.”

But restaurant consultants and brokers beg to differ. Yes, location is important, but there is no such thing as a jinxed locale, says Kelly Greene, head of Urban Legend, part of the Denver-based Legend Retail Group. Greene scouts national and local restaurant locations for a living. He can cite chapter and verse restaurants that have gone into formerly “cursed” spaces and lived to tell the tale.

The restaurant’s location is just one piece of the puzzle, says Greene. Sometimes it’s décor or concept, lousy food, lack of funding, or operator error. “It may not be a solid operation, he says. “It doesn’t have to do with the corner. Look at some of (the popular restaurants) located in the middle of nowhere. Word goes out and people find them.”

Avoid the bad juju. Before you open your dream restaurant, check out these tips, compiled with a little help from our location expert.

  1. Sure, you want to honor your father, your mother or your dog. That doesn’t mean it should be the name of your restaurant. Name the restaurant something that is an immediate read: Tom’s doesn’t mean much. Tom’s Home Cookin’ tells you exactly what to expect. Hooter’s? Why the name just screams “chicken wings.”
  2. Make it easy on the diner. No one likes to hassle with parking. If you don’t have an adequate lot, offer valet service, preferably complimentary. Thank you.
  3. There is one location that Greene isn’t keen on: the subterranean or “garden level” restaurant. People like to see and be seen – and they don’t really like to walk up and down stairs – too much trouble and who doesn’t have tennis elbow, bee’s knees and other assorted ailments. If you do have such a location, you can thrive with a well-executed concept, aka, make it worth walking down those stairs in five-inch heels.
  4. If you choose a space that has had multiple failed restaurants in it, don’t just slap on a coat of paint and call it good. “You want a cool ambience,” says Greene. “Not a warmed over ambience.” In other words, change the vibe.
  5. Know your demographics. Restaurants have a herd mentality so it’s not unusual to find fast food places and chains clustered together in one area and neighborhood independents gathered in another. There are reasons for this, so take heed. Either someone did your homework for you or someone knows something you don’t, i.e., Old McDonald’s knows a good location, ei, ei, o. 
Kelly Greene says that the improved economy means that restaurateurs are more likely to pay for a quality spot (see one through five above). “Mom was right,” he says. “Everything she said was true: location, location, location, you get what you pay for.” And let us not forget her most important words: Never name a bakery “Marie Antoinette’s.” Even if your slogan is “Let them eat cake.”


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Many people claim it is location, but i find many places just get tired looking and stale. Change it up a little, freshen up the menu, bring some life back into the restaurant. It is so obvious when an owner is on cruise control.

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