It’s the oldest mantra in real estate history, but is it true that a great location is the single biggest factor in ensuring your restaurant’s success? Well, that depends.
While a good location with high volumes of foot traffic and lots of visibility is undoubtedly a big factor in a restaurant’s success, it isn’t the single most important thing to consider. We’ve had the good fortune to work with a number of restaurants during the past few years where location has not been a big factor in our business planning, and the restaurants, some of them you may recognize, are enjoying tremendous success.
When we first considered the N King Street location that is now home to The Pig and The Lady, it was a dark, unwelcoming, fairly dismal space that had gone almost unnoticed for years by the thousands of drivers passing by each day. Not many restaurants could have opened in the space and been assured of immediate success, but with The Pig and The Lady, their strong ‘pop up’ presence had given the team, led by Le family members Andrew and Alex a good idea of their customer base. And a steady stream of Farmers Market customers provided some indication of the popularity of Andrew’s unique, Vietnamese influenced cuisine. Knowing that locals, and a growing number of tourists would seek out the Le Family at Farmer’s Markets and wherever their food appeared gave the team confidence to predict that despite not being in a prime location, the space would work. Their Best New Restaurant Hale Aina Award in 2015 was just the beginning of accolades received thus far, and second location, Piggy Small, opened last week to rave reviews.
So, location for The Pig and The Lady was actually one of the last things we considered when looking for their all-important first brick and mortar restaurant; Instead we focused on the talents of Chef Andrew, the Management skills of Alex, and economic points that would help ensure longevity, like a low start-up cost (with near turnkey kitchen) and a sustainable rent.
In the case of Bevy Bar, the classy neighborhood anchor of Kakaako, our first viewing was of a dingy, decades old bar on the corner of soon to be renovated Auahi Street and truthfully it didn’t seem like much of a location for the first time venture of Christian Self and his partners. But with a strong business plan and a sure idea of the potential Bevy customer base, we snapped up the dive bar in an instant, and it is today, the anchor tenant of the SALT project at Kakaako and one of the most exciting bars in Honolulu. Awards came quickly and this month Bevy expanded into a neighboring space, giving Christian and his team access to a ‘real’ kitchen for the first time since they opened. Despite more than a year of construction, zero parking at times and major noise and disturbance, Bevy flourished in its first year and is another example of the fact that talent, vision, passion and social media can overcome almost any location fears.
As the market gets tight for great restaurant spaces, and rents appear to be soaring, make sure the decision you take to open your first restaurant isn’t just based on parking. With a little vision and a lot of talent, you can be successful anywhere.
Jo McGarry Curran is a former food writer for MidWeek and The Honolulu Star Advertiser, Host of Radio MoJo on NBC Hawaii Sports Radio and the founder of MoJo, The Business Of Food . She specializes in restaurant real estate and can be found on Wednesday mornings at ChefZone for complimentary consultations to the food and beverage industry.