May 19, 2017

Location, Location, Location…Some Things Never Change

location mapWhen it comes to real estate of any kind – commercial and personal – the saying has long been that location trumps everything as that’s the only thing you cannot change.  The same holds true for food businesses regardless of whether they’re a farmers’ market business, a food truck operator, or a brick-and-mortar establishment.

While it may seem obvious, the thinking behind today’s article stemmed from the fact that this morning I drove by ‘the haunted space’ as it’s known to many of my town’s food folks.  It’s a commercial space that seems to have everything going for it – good light, foot traffic, decent parking, etc – but yet that space has been inhabited by one after another restaurant for as long as I can remember and it’s never worked out.  This morning as I passed I noticed a ‘Coming Soon’ sign for a new restaurant and felt nothing but despair for the person who is putting their hard-earned money and time into this new venture.

Now, hopefully, they will prove me wrong.  Hopefully the city’s dynamics have changed enough since the last failed restaurant in this space  and/or this new owner brings something so new and different that this will be a knockout hit.  However, history is not on their side and there’s a reason it’s been nicknamed ‘the haunted space’ because many of us wonder if there’s some sort of curse or something on the space to have seen so many great restaurants fail there time and time again.

Similarly, this week I saw an article about the food trucks at Red Hook ballfields in Brooklyn.  I visited this food truck mecca several years ago and it was a bustling scene with numerous food trucks, each with long lines of eager customers.  These trucks relied, in part, on the weekend athletes and their families who flocked to the ballfields in the warmer weather.  Turns out that the ballfields are contaminated and while New York City works to clean them up the athletes have moved elsewhere and now it’s a relative ghost town.  Without the customers, obviously, the food trucks are struggling.

Lastly, I had a conversation last night with a farmers’ market vendor who talked about how surprised he was to realize that he could be a knockout success in one market but another, across town, was a struggle to get customers interested in what he offers.  He says that even within the city the customer demographics – including what they are and aren’t willing to pay for items – can be drastically different.  As such, this past winter he spent time researching the demographics of various farmers’ market communities before applying to the ones that he feels are most inline with his core customer base.

So whether or not you have a brick-and-mortar space, the importance of location can’t be understated.  As food businesses we rely on customer foot traffic to help sell our products and that means we need to be in places where our customers already are.

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