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How to Find a Good Location for a Restaurant

Oct 27, 2021 Franchise Information

“If you build it they will come,” right?

Not quite. No matter the quality of your restaurant team and product, if people can’t find you or get to you, they won’t be booking reservations or stopping in anytime soon.

For those who have always dreamed about owning a restaurant, considering how to find a location for a restaurant is often on the backburner, when it should be a top priority.

Through our many years of experience in franchising, we wanted to offer some insights as to what you should consider when choosing the right location for your restaurant.

 

Visibility

Great visibility includes great branding across multiple platforms, building size and positioning, signage, and beyond. That means when you’re scouting for the perfect location, it’s critical to take note of how easily your potential location can be seen from the street.

“Setting up shop in a location with either high foot or car traffic is ideal,” suggests Lorri Mealey, The Balance Small Business. “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.”

“You can have a really good piece of property, but not be in the right corner,” says Mark Eaton, Chief Development Officer at Recipe Unlimited. “What’s important is to have a great sight line. If someone is sitting at a stoplight, they naturally look left or right. You want to be in that line of sight.”

If you’re unable to find the perfect building location, it’s important to supplement strategically as much as possible. This can include increased signage.

In our experience, when sharing signage with other businesses, your signage should be at the top or the bottom to be successful. You don’t want to be in the middle, as our eyes normally go up or down. Service is an impulse, and you need to be noticed.

“You can have the best accessibility in the world, but without visibility, you won’t draw customers,” says Samir Changela, franchise owner in Boca Raton, Florida. “You need good visibility, easily visible signage… a natural way for your location to expose your brand.”

Another key factor to consider when it comes to restaurant visibility is the surrounding lighting. It’s a good idea to take a walk around a potential restaurant location during different times of the day to get a sense of the ambiance. The reality is, people won’t want to visit your restaurant at night if the lighting is poor and they don’t feel safe in the area.

Quick Visibility Checklist 

  • Good lighting
  • Street visibility
  • Visibility at a distance
  • Great signage
  • Safety at night time

Accessibility

When it comes to the right geographic location for a restaurant, accessibility is key. You need great parking, easy to navigate directions for suppliers to access you, and to offer as much convenience as possible.

“Some people won’t go to a restaurant simply because they have to make a U-turn at a traffic light,” according to Jeff Haden, Contributing Editor of Inc.com in his article How to Find the Perfect Location for a New Restaurant. “Others won’t go to a restaurant if they have to cross traffic; they only want to visit places along their direction of travel.”

Restaurant owners also need to meet unique regulations to ensure all people may access seating and facilities inside their restaurant space.

“When structuring the layout of a restaurant, restaurants should ensure that patrons who use wheelchairs or other mobility aids or have service animals can move through spaces easily.” recommends Jaclyn Leduc of 3PLAYMEDIA in her article Expert-Approved Accessibility Guidelines for Restaurants, Cafes, and Eateries.

Finally, it’s important to consider which demographics your restaurant may serve when it comes to accessibility. For example, translating your menu into different languages and hiring multilingual staff can help you to better serve your community.

To ensure your potential restaurant location is accessible as possible, be sure to stay up to date on all codes, rules, and best practices. We encourage you to read the Ontario Human Rights Code (the “Code”) and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (the “AODA”).

Quick Accessibility Checklist 

  • AODA compliant menu and website
  • Wheelchair accessibility
  • Substantial parking
  • FREE parking
  • Make room for mobility
  • Create space for service animals
  • Multilingual staff

Scalability

Size matters — especially when looking to retrofit an existing building into a franchise. Your restaurant needs room for a kitchen, refrigerator, and ample dining space. Therefore, scouting the right building or property is a must.

For safety reasons, your floor layout must allow for great traffic flow in case of a fire. That means ensuring good distance between your tables and chairs, especially when meeting COVID-19 distancing standards.

Quick Scalability Checklist 

As stated by Total Food Service, the general seating guidelines that should be observed are:

  • Fine Dining: 18–20 Square Feet
  • Full-Service  Restaurant Dining: 12–15 Square Feet
  • Counter Service: 18–20 Square Feet
  • Fast Food Minimum: 11–14 Square Feet
  • Table Service, Hotel/Club:  15–18 Square Feet
  • ‏Banquet, Minimum: 10–11 Square Feet

“What looks like a huge space for rent can quickly fill up with all the equipment needed to open a restaurant,” cautions Lorri Mealey.

When planning your space, the general rule of thumb to remember is that the dining area should comprise approximately 60% of the total area. The kitchen, storage, and preparation area should take up the remaining space.

These dimensions will have to be adjusted if you plan on having a lobby area, bar, or patio.

Example: Your restaurant floor plan has 5000 square feet

200 seats / 60% Dining Area  =  3000 square feet / 40% Kitchen  =  2000 square feet

Craveability

There needs to be an appetite for your restaurant in your desired area.

“Make sure you look past your target demographic. Who will your guests be? Talk to people in the community. Find out what people think of your brand or your concept.” advises Jeff Haden.

Have people been asking for a franchise like yours? Are they tired of the same old options they’ve had for years? Does the population have the buying power to visit your location frequently? What other restaurants will be your neighbours?

You need to know your audience and you need to have a strategy. The last thing you want is for your business to be busy as the “hot new thing” for a few weeks and then people stop coming, or worse — start going to the restaurant next door instead.

Quick Craveability Checklist 

  • Dig into psychographics
  • Visit multiple sites
  • Learn about zoning and approvals
  • Consider the competition
  • Conduct taste and preference surveys

Availability

Great restaurant sites can come to restaurant owners in a variety of ways. If you’re an established restaurant owner, landlords may call you about opportunities. However, you can’t count on this.

It’s important to take initiative and do “on the ground” research to look for new opportunities. We suggest getting proactive by talking to cities and municipalities about where the new infrastructures may be built — so you can get ahead of the competition.

However, that’s not to say you have to go “new”. Instead of always being focused on the fresh builds, many restaurants are now having success in revitalizing older locations. If you’re unable to find the perfect, new location, we encourage you to consider converting spaces that have become available recently, due to various factors.

“For about 15 years, people were focused on the new, but in the last two or three years, it’s shifted quite dramatically —  infill and retrofit are on the rise,” says Mark Eaton.

Quick Availability Checklist 

  • Investigate converting and retrofitting
  • Do your research
  • Contact local developers and government

Recipe Franchising Locations

As a Recipe franchise, visibility, accessibility, scalability, and availability are always a priority.

  • We use regression analysis and rich demographic data to point out key success factors and rerun the markets based on our confirmed findings — so owners don’t have to.
  • We have a full marketplace strategy by brand, so we know exactly what markets we want to be starting from. We then go out and search for good site quality in those areas that we’ve identified. It could be new markets for us, it could be markets that have shifted or moved over the years.
  • We do all the heavy lifting in finding a great location and never invest in a property that we don’t fully believe in. We also look toward population predictions and plan to ensure our restaurant will still fit the market down the line.

That’s what true partnership is all about.

Connect with us to learn more about franchise opportunities in great locations across Canada.

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