Thursday, May 03, 2012

Restaurant Locations

Remember that restaurant "Oh! Brian's" very near our house (Hwy 55 at Hwy 54, Durham) that closed in 2009? No? Well...the old building stayed vacant for over two years, and I was wondering if and when another tenant would ever take it. Well, at last, the "Oh! Brian's" building is now home to a brand new restaurant: a Mexican restaurant called "El Agave". Which is too bad, because that means Amber and I won't be going there. (We don't do Mexican. At least, not when we get to choose.)

Is El Agave a chain restaurant or a standalone? There are many other Mexican restaurants called "El Agave" across the country, but it looks like they're all independent, because they all have different web addresses. (For example: elagave.com, el-agave.com, elagave-restaurant.com, elagavemexican.com, elagavemexicanrestaurant.com, and so on and so forth. Why is "El Agave" such a popular name for a Mexican restaurant, anyway?) So, it appears it is not a chain.

And, that's not surprising. Save for Golden Corral, there are no chain sit-down restaurants along this stretch of Highway 55, and all of the non-fast-food restaurants - like this one - are independent. Instead, all of the chain sit-down restaurants seem to have congregated over by Southpoint Mall. The most recent one to open in that area is a Buffalo Wild Wings.

This is pretty common across the country, I've noticed. Why is this? Why do the chain restaurants all seem to congregate around the major shopping centers, while independent restaurants are left to rot in completely random areas? This has to do with money, right? If you're Chili's, you can afford to place your restaurant in a high-rent, high-visibility location. If you're My Sister's Kitchen, you have to settle for the old Greek restaurant on Highway 55.

I think it's unfortunate that it's worked out this way. Where would you rather have your favorite restaurant be: near a major shopping center with lots of traffic, or on some other road that is much easier to get in to or out of?

That said, why are major shopping centers considered the most desirable locations for a restaurant, anyway? I think it's because they're "higher visibility" - you're likely to go to a major shopping center for other reasons, and then say, "Hey, there's a Restaurant X here! We should go there sometime." Then again, wouldn't "visibility" be more important for the independents than for the chains? If you're a Chili's, people are going to find you wherever you end up, because everyone knows Chili's. But if you're My Sister's Kitchen, you have to put your restaurant in a location where it will be noticed. Might it be worth a few extra bucks to put your restaurant directly across the street from the Old Navy and the Babies"R"Us?

Except that that's what the chains are doing, and perhaps My Sister's Kitchen doesn't feel it would do very well if there was, say, a Cracker Barrel next door. I suppose the cheaper locations are also "less competition" locations, which might actually make them more desirable for a small startup. If you're a small startup hardware store, certainly you wouldn't want to be right next to a Home Depot or Lowe's, right? You want to be away from the major shopping centers. There's a True Value close to our house, and the only reason we ever go there is because Lowe's is farther away. Maybe the same idea works for independent restaurants.

I'm kind of going in circles here, so...in conclusion: Amber and I do not prefer Mexican food.

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