How to Find the Perfect Spot for Your Restaurant

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A huge key to the success of MULO (multi-location) brands is knowing which cities, neighborhoods, streets (and even which side of the street) to put a location. Technology is now playing a huge role in distribution planning. Brands used to pick their locations using maps and a wide range of demographic data. They would also talk to each other about which areas to invest in.

Now, much of that data is at our fingertips. Conferences like Blueprint showcase various tools brands and brokers can use in their expansion planning and site selection.

However, humans can still play a critical role in helping brands find the best location at the best price. As in residential real estate, having a flesh-and-blood person to advise and negotiate for you can be invaluable — especially if you’re a new brand, investing in your first, second or third location.

We spoke with Christine Nebiar, Principal / Placemaking at Brand Urban, a real estate advisory company that specializes in food/beverage and lifestyle brands.

Many commercial brokers and AI apps say they can find “the perfect restaurant location.” True or not? Why or why not?

“True! Commercial brokers are indispensable for MULO brands for a few reasons. We serve as strategic advisors, guiding the evaluation of regional, local, or national expansions. We play a crucial role in advising on scalable growth while effectively managing allocated funds for real estate-related brand expansion.

We can source hard-to-find deals in competitive areas by leveraging established relationships and industry insights. Our expertise extends to validating potential sites and ranking them, and our on-the-ground presence provides invaluable cultural perspectives essential for success and decision-making. While AI technology can and will assist in location selection and support our roles moving forward, commercial brokers’ relationship-based knowledge remains indispensable for navigating off-market opportunities and successfully closing deals.”

What factors should a restaurant or food business consider when looking for space?

“Key considerations involve gaining a deep understanding of your target audience, pinpointing the specific day parts where your business thrives, and thinking about like-minded or aspirational co-tenants you want to be nearby. These co-tenants may not necessarily be in the food industry but should align with the persona of your current clientele and potentially your desired future clientele. ” 

Do you have any additional thoughts or boots-on-the-ground trends you are seeing? 

“Traditionally, when people think of MULO brands, they often associate them with food and beverage. However, we are on the brink of witnessing a significant rise in wellness brands scaling up in the next few years. The pandemic has sparked a notable shift in health priorities, with studies indicating that 70 percent of individuals have begun to reevaluate their approach to wellness. This trend consists of prioritizing self-care services that previously had high barriers to entry, such as acupuncture, saunas, cold plunges, wrinkle prevention treatment and more. These services increasingly adopt streamlined, in-and-out models tailored to the modern-day consumer. There’s a clear emphasis on providing efficient and affordable experiences, marking a departure from traditional spa settings.” 

Nancy A Shenker, senior editor with Street Fight, is a former big brand (Citibank, Mastercard, Reed Exhibitions) marketing strategist and leader. She has been featured in, the New York Times and Forbes.