Choosing a Successful Restaurant Location

How to Choose a Successful Location for a New Restaurant

Crowds in East End Rundle Street on opening night of The Fringe Festival.
Diana Mayfield/Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images

This is a question that I get asked a lot. Readers want to know the secret of choosing the perfect restaurant location. Unfortunately, there is no fail-safe location to open a new restaurant. However, while a good location doesn’t guarantee a successful restaurant, it can sure help. Just like a poor location doesn’t automatically doom a burgeoning restaurant, but nor does it help. Choosing the right location for your new restaurant will depend largely on your concept and budget.

For example, a barbeque themed family casual restaurant may not logistically fit in a small, downtown space. But a trendy French-style bistro with a sidewalk café would be ideal. Read on for tips on how to choose a successful restaurant location.

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 advertising, reminding passerby’s that your restaurant exists and they should stop by for dinner sometime. One reason property prices in downtown districts and developed strips are higher than other areas is that they offer a level of visibility that can bring in a great deal of walk-in business. The good news is that through a savvy social media marketing campaign, you can build your restaurant’s online visibility that can be just as effective in reaching new customers. Read on for the basics of planning a restaurant social media campaign.

Parking is Essential.

Never underestimate the allure of parking. Will there be enough parking to accommodate all the seats in your new restaurant? Ideally, a new restaurant location should have its own parking lot. If that isn’t an option, is there public parking near the restaurant location?

Is the Space Suitable for a Lease?

If your restaurant design requires extensive renovations to a space, find out if it will first pass health and safety inspections.

Bring in the fire marshal, health inspector and building code office (code enforcement officer) to tell you exactly what needs to be done in order to meet health safety codes. After all the initial visits, you may find that renovations will be too expensive to justify that particular location.

Who's Paying for Renovations?

If you are renting or leasing the space, you need to talk with your landlord about what needs to be done, and more importantly, who is going to do it and pay for it. Some landlords will foot the entire bill for renovations, since in theory it’s their building they are improving. Others will argue that you should pay for a bulk of the renovations, since it is your business. Either way, it’s vital to have a contract and/or lease in place before starting, which clearly states who is responsible for which renovations. Read on about basics of renovating a new restaurant.

Check the Location’s Zoning Ordinances

Some locations are obviously in commercial zones, such as busy downtowns and developed strips of highway. Other locations may be on the fringes of a commercial and or residential zone. Before you even call the landlord about lease options, contact the town manager to find out if the building is properly zoned for a restaurant.

Be sure to ask about serving alcohol in that particular area as well. Some towns prohibit the sale of alcohol within so many feet of a church or house of worship, while other towns still maintain “dry” ordinances left over from prohibition.

Be Flexible With Your Restaurant Plan

As you start renovations and planning your restaurant design, you will inevitably run into unforeseen problems. Maybe the spot you had designated for the walk in freezer isn’t going to work after all. Or the original size of the bar needs to be trimmed by four extra feet. Whatever the issue is, there is a solution. You just have to be willing to make changes along the way. Read on for more about restaurant design problems and how to handle them.