Jul 18, 2008

Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better... I think.

I blogged recently about the 5K race my husband ran. The town center area it was in is very new and upscale. It's been open about 3 years now - just long enough for some of the leases to expire. The place is stacked with boutique shops, professional offices, a small chain or two (Pier One, Quiznos, Starbucks, Kits Cameras) and a ton of restaurants. You can get everything from Indian to Thai to Mexican, Italian, etc. there. There are a LOT of restaurants. What the area lacks, though, is a draw in the evening BESIDES the restaurants. There is no theatre - movie or otherwise - and most of the shops are closed up by 6 or 7 - even on the weekends. And, there are SO MANY restaurants that there simply isn't enough of a lunch crowd to fill them. Unlike an outdoor mall near the Microsoft campus where lunch is "standing room only" every day in the restaurants in the area, there just aren't enough dentists and real estate agents to fill the tables.

Couple that with a lack of much in the evening to draw the dinner crown and you've unfortunately got a poor place for a plethora of restaurants.

So, as the leases come up (I'm assuming), the restaurants are shutting down. The first to go was my favorite - Cosi. It's the only one in the area. Mark and I would often meet for lunch there. But, it was pretty empty no matter what day we went. It shut down and turned into an Italian bistro. The next to go was Zinnia. It was a "chick place" for lunch and tres expensive for dinner. We had lunch there a few times - they had good Paninis with interesting salads. It's gone and it's currently morphing into Kafe Neo - a Greek restaurant (yum!).

But, I have to wonder what makes these two new restaurants think they can succeed where the others didn't? Did they really look at the street traffic at meal time? Or do they just think they're smarter than the previous owners.

This is not unlike what happens with scrapbook stores. Usually when one closes, another one someplace else might open. Not always in the same spot, but in the same area. For a while, it was an epidemic in my area. The minute one closed, someone else decided to open. Does the owner of the new store think the owner of the closed store was just not smart enough to run the business? Or, do they believe the story that they closed for "family reasons"? You don't close a business that is a cash-cow. PERIOD. If the store is doing well, you pay someone to manage it or sell it. People don't close profitable businesses.

I wish these new restaurants luck. I'm sure I'll eat at both from time to time. But, I hope that the new restaurants did their homework and have a compelling reason as to why they think they will succeed where the others didn't.

Bottom line is to do your research... Don't open based on YOUR desires or emotions or even the "you can do it" encouragement of others. Want, needs, desires and encouragers aren't footing the bill. I can't only imagine the debt these previous owners are stuck with. For example, a Cosi franchise is a minimum of $775,000 to open. Yikes...

No comments: