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What makes for the “right” restaurant location?

This is the ultimate question, isn’t it? Finding the right location for your restaurant is a foundational, critical endeavor. It’s the key to realizing success and returns. Yet, many leaders rely only on a mix of free tools, agents, experience, and simple gut thinking to make the decision. While those do have their merits, they certainly aren’t the best tools for the job.

But before you get to the evaluation phase where those tools come into play, it’s important to understand what the right location looks like. The answer isn’t the same for every concept. In fact, it can vary more than you think.

An extreme example, just so it’s clear how variable the answer can be, would be the difference between a quick-serve restaurant and a fine dining full-service restaurant. There are numerous factors that come into play for these formats to succeed.

For a QSR, the concept’s success is dependent on quantity of guests due to the lower ticket averages of the format. It needs to have traffic at multiple day parts which equates to needing locations that ample opportunities from both residential and commercial real estate alike.

FSR’s are usually focused on the evening daypart where ticket averages and spending from guests are traditionally higher. In this instance, a higher residential market may be a better fit.

As one digs into the nuances of a concept, the variables that lead to a successful location become more detailed and complex (which is why those free tools fall short.) So rather than establishing what the right location looks like for every category of restaurant, we’d like to equip you with some key questions to ask yourself so you can set the groundwork for a successful search. Side note: there’s a system that helps with this question that’s quite good, even if it is a bit biased for us to write. Hint: you’re on the website for that system right now. 😀


What day parts does your concept serve?

The day parts your concept serves has a direct impact on the type of real estate you need around your location. If it’s breakfast, for instance, finding a location that’s at the beginning or end of a commute will have the most traction during the week.  If it’s lunches, then areas that have heavy commercial population will work wonders.
Think about the behaviors of how people move and how those behaviors align with what you serve, and when you serve it.

What are the average lease costs for the neighborhood and what can your concept effectively afford?

What you can afford may seem like an obvious question, but it’s also one that seems to get pushed to the limit more often than not. Numbers don’t lie and what you can afford for a lease is directly connected to order counts and daily sales. No matter how much your heart gets set on a specific location, if the numbers don’t work, your chances of success are limited.

Find out what the average leases in an area are, and calculate whether or not that works for your concept before even looking at openings.


What are the traffic patterns that pass the location?

As mentioned above, traffic patterns are profoundly informative data. How people move directly affects actual walk through and order counts. Finding locations with traffic patterns that align with your day part and occasion is one of the most important insights you can excavate.

One way to do this is by simply observing daily traffic. It’s time-consuming, but can be relatively effective. Then again, Borne does have this baked into the system so you don’t have to sit in the elements for hours and days.


How aggressive is the competition in the area specific to your concept?

Not all restaurants are competition for you. Some are actually power partners. That said, it may not be smart to open your taco concept in a neighborhood with three other taco restaurants. Seems like an obvious thought, but you’d be surprised how many restaurant leaders break it. Maybe it’s that aggressive entrepreneurial spirit that can’t resist a challenge. Maybe it’s just hubris. Either way, bad move.

Finding the white space via a gap analysis, and understanding nuances in concept, can guide you to a better understanding of what, exactly, would work at an address. Using the taco shop example, a high-end, full-service taco experience could do quite well in a neighborhood that has three QSR taco concepts.

Research and document all of the competition in the area and categorize them into competition or power partners. If the competition is heavy, steer clear.


Have many similar concepts closed in the past?

Closures happen. We all are familiar with the numbers in this industry. And a recently closed pizza concept does not mean your concept won’t work. The closure could’ve been many factors of operations and marketing which means the location could be cherry.

However, if there is a history of pizza concepts coming and going from that location, then the universe is telling you something. Steer clear!


These are just some of the many questions you must ask before evaluating locations. Fueling this information to your real estate partners will help the search process go better and be more effective. But be warned, the data and information for each location address are truly different, and having a system for evaluating locations is the secret weapon to growth. Good thing there’s Borne!