Five things you should know about selecting a restaurant location
The success or failure of a restaurant can often lie with the decisions you make long before the ribbons are cut on opening day. Customer satisfaction is not only shaped by what you’re serving, but where you’re serving it. According to a survey conducted by Payment Sense, 66% of diners consider the location of a restaurant to be important or very important in their decision-making, ranking higher than factors such as drink prices (51%), or whether there are vegetarian or vegan options (31%).
With such high stakes placed upon securing the perfect spot for your restaurant, we’ve put together a guide of the most important considerations.
1. Hitting the right demographic
Getting customers through the door can be a lot easier if you’ve picked a location suited to your target demographic. For example, if you specialise in high-end dining, there’s little benefit to setting up shop in the middle of an industrial estate, far from the leafy suburbs or the buzz of a town centre. Similarly, a cheap and cheerful commuters lunch spot won’t serve its purpose if it’s out of range of transport networks and office spaces.
After suffering a difficult period throughout the coronavirus pandemic, it’s encouraging to see the hospitality industry bouncing back with a vengeance; UKHospitality’s Quarterly Tracker reported that hospitality was responsible for 40% of the UK’s total economic growth from Q1 to Q2 in 2021. But the post-pandemic bounce bank won’t be enough to prop your restaurant up if the right clientele isn’t there to pick up the bill.
On your search for the perfect location, you should be digging as deep as you can into the surrounding areas, looking at average levels of income, age ranges, and other social factors like the number of schools and crime rates. This research will be a sure-fire way of ‘reading the room’, and working out whether your restaurant is going to attract customers in the local area.
2. Sussing out the competition
There can be a fine line between healthy competition among restaurants and suffering at the hands of a competitor.
If an area houses a number of thriving restaurants already, it usually indicates that this location is a prime customer hotspot. Your competitors have done the hard work for you in revealing this, and the footfall of their current clientele will provide you with a certain level of exposure for free.
However, rolling into town with a cuisine that already has a direct competitor is likely to cause you problems. As well as immediately establishing yourself as the direct rival of another business, it’s going to be tough for you to win customers over when their loyalties lie elsewhere. Unless it’s clear that there’s a market for more of the same in the area, you’re better off looking elsewhere.
In a similar vein, it can also be fruitful to do your research into the previous owners of the location you’ve got in mind. If it was a restaurant that has since moved on to pastures new - or shut up shop completely - it’s worth asking why. Getting feedback from neighbours might indicate whether the issue was the restaurant itself, or if the location doesn’t fit the bill.
3. Assessing the access
Access should be front and centre of your thinking when considering geographical location, as well as how customers can move in and around your restaurant space. As such, both access and accessibility are vital.
If people are likely to drive to your restaurant, then you’ll either need parking onsite or a convenient car park nearby. Of course, if you’re looking to open up in the middle of a city, then instead you’ll need to evaluate the transport links in the area. Are there train and bus stations nearby? Are there spaces for bicycle parking? Consider whether footfall alone will be enough to encourage customers to frequent your restaurant in a specific area, or if you’ll need to make provisions for additional access.
To broaden the appeal of your restaurant further, consider accessibility a key factor. Offering easy access for pedestrians and prams is great - even better if you can provide disability access and facilities too.
4. Maximising visibility
You may have set up the finest looking restaurant around, but if there’s no one around to see it then you’re fighting a losing battle - regardless of its aesthetic value. That’s why it’s important to source a restaurant location that is, on some level, visible to passers-by.
Of course, not everyone can pick the most coveted spot in town to pitch up their new joint. But finding it in the budget to source a space that optimises visibility to potential customers can go a long way in facilitating a buzz among local foodies, or even tourists. This, paired with popping your place on Google Maps and other similar apps, will mean you’re in the eye-line of digital age diners and traditional walk-in customers alike.
5. Doing the sums on the space
Once you’ve worked out the figures on staff and equipment, along with the number of diners you want to cater for, you should have a good idea of the size of the restaurant that’s right for you. But remember, scrimping on space can be costly to the general atmosphere of a restaurant, and could impact its efficiency.
More space can offer more flexibility, and the impact of coronavirus has meant that many restaurants have had to reduce their capacity to make room for social distancing. While a larger space may be slightly more costly, in the long run you’ll be able to fit more customers in, should there be any further need for coronavirus precautions. A more spacious environment may make diners feel more comfortable, too.
With this in mind, the additional benefit of outdoor space has rarely been so popular. One of the many overhangs from the pandemic has seen more diners opting for the al fresco experience, which offers a particular appeal in the spring and summer months. So, if you’re able to afford a location with a garden or outdoor seating area, then all the better.
Want to find out more about renting a commercial property? Check out our previous commercial property guides.