Choosing a New Location for Your Restaurant

So your lease is getting close to running out, and your landlord’s raised the rent again or is planning to sell the building. You’ve already built up a customer base in your current location — what should you do?

If you need to (or just want to) move your restaurant to a new site, there are a number of considerations when choosing the right spot. Here’s how to get it right.

Focus on where your current customer base is. If you’ve built a base of regulars in a certain city, they might be willing to follow you if your new location is just a five minute walk away — but if it’s a 15-minute drive away, it’s much less likely, so stay as close as you can. If you have a Facebook page for your business, you can also look at where all of your fans live to find out which towns have the most existing fans. That will help you decide what neighboring towns could support your business without too much drop-off.

Talk to other business owners in the area where you’re looking. If you’re considering a certain street or plaza, find a time to chat with other business owners in that same location about the area’s foot or car traffic. Does it die off in winter or on weekends? It’s good to find out as much as you can about general trends in customer behavior before committing yourself to a location.

Don’t get too close to your competitors. If you’re a burger restaurant, you’ll probably be better off as the only such establishment within a five-block radius than as one of three within two blocks, even if you’re in a lower-traffic area. If you’d rather take your chances where the crowds are, it’s important to come up with a way to differentiate yourself from competitors, whether that means using local meat and produce or offering a jumbo-sized burger.

Make sure that the space is easy and convenient for customers to access. What’s parking like for the restaurant? Does it have an attached parking lot or other easily accessible parking? How easy is it to turn into and out of the parking lot? Is there a possibility of building a drive-through window, if that fits your model? Are there other businesses around that customers are likely to walk to from your restaurant, or vice versa? Even if customers like your food, they won’t make a special visit if your establishment is hard to access and not near other retail establishments, so think carefully before signing a lease.

Once you’ve decided to make the move, it’s also important to make your customers aware of where you’re going. The SBA has tips for announcing your move.

Image Credit: Chris Riedinger