Are there too many ______?

 

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Craft breweries? Burger joints? Sandwich shops? Pizza parlors? Do people even say “pizza parlor” anymore?  It still sounds cool. Are there too many? Well it depends.  If you ask someone about to open one they’ll say no.  If you ask an operator already open they might say yes.  If you ask the public who has the final say they’ll say yes, no or maybe.

The market usually makes the determination of what’s “too much.”  No one is here to push the breaks on your dreams but it’s important to ask yourself how different you’re planning to be, what are the strengths and weaknesses of the location and if you’re bringing the product to the people or the people to the product.

Our neighborhood is often the subject of debate when it comes to how much is too much.  The other day I counted approximately 14 places where one could theoretically order the same beer or cocktail. All on one street and within 0.4/mi of one another.  Is that too many? I don’t know. The good thing is it’s a mix of bars and restaurants so at least there are some diverse physical experiences. Sometimes density isn’t an issue as much as product selection.  In recent years two national frozen yogurt brands have come and gone yet there are locals who seem to be doing fine, as well as some national ice cream brands all of whom equally deal with cold weather half a year. A burger-bar concept with a large footprint opened several locations in prime areas and bought pricy billboards all over town.  They shut down after three years. Were they too late to market or was the overhead too high? Both? Don’t be fooled by what you see.

Landlords and sellers will welcome your idea because they’re in the real estate business not the foodservice business. Their job is to pitch how successful your concept will be at their property so take your time. Opening is relatively easy, staying open is hard and you’ll find that out sooner than later, especially if you’re independent and working with a finite amount of cash.

On the other hand, a restaurant can be performing and still close. Margins may be there but not quite to satisfaction, the dissolution of business relationships happens, and sometimes it’s simple fatigue where the owner or chef is ready for new challenges. Like any business an exit strategy is as important as a start-up strategy.

On the recommendation of a peer I looked at a space this weekend on a busy street with huge retail density in the area. It was his feeling this would be an attractive location for our current concept and he wanted to partner.  It was a former kitchen, just the right size and could be reopened for next to nothing but had several drawbacks in my opinion. There’s just too much competition in our segment, in that area, with both quick and full-service restaurants.  The quick service restaurants all have drive-thrus and the subject property does not. We don’t do drive-thrus anyway but it’s not about us. In this particular area it’s obvious we’d lose too many potential guests to that convenience.  Additionally it shares a building with another restaurant which is not a big deal but the parking is flawed.

While I feel our brand would get a respectable reception, with all that’s going against the space and with others able to serve faster and cheaper my practical sense tells me it’s not a good fit.  There’s a potential opportunity for something just not what we do.  Perhaps we’ll put our heads together on something else. I strongly believe if you feel anything less than 110% about your chances don’t do it.  You want your head in a good place when embarking on these missions and anything less than full confidence immediately puts you behind the eight ball, mentally.

People choose to get into the business for various reasons, some similar to people who choose to work in the business but that is a discussion for another time. Unless you have deep pockets be careful with a “me too” concept.  Plan, analyze, find a location that fits and above all don’t rush!

Cheers

Sweet and Savory Sausages

  • 6 breakfast sausage links
  • 2 breakfast sausage patties
  • 1 T butter
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • 1 T honey
  • 1/2 t sage
  • 2 T chopped parsley
  •  parsley sprigs

Cook sausages and drain.  In clean skillet melt butter, add lemon juice, honey, sage, and parsley. Blend well. Add sausage and stir to coat evenly. Serve warm with parsley sprigs.

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