The Great Hall
Creative Location Scouting Tactics The Great Hall: Creative Location Scouting Tactics
By Miroslavw (Miroslavw) on Tuesday, August 16, 2005 - 01:42 am: Edit

Hello Folks,

I am an entrepreneur in San Francisco partnering with a well known chef to open a fine dining restaurant. My previous ventures have been outside of the restaurant industry and I am employing my known networking tactics to get the skinny on available spaces in the city. As many of you will know, commercial real estate in this little patch of 49 square miles is highly sought after.

I was wondering if anyone could suggest some ideas for finding places beyond the standard channels? How open are other restauranteurs to helping out colleagues when searching for venues? Is it improper to ask? Are there any tricks to catching a space before it gets to market? Am I even in the right forum to be asking this?

Thanks in advance,


By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Tuesday, August 16, 2005 - 06:17 pm: Edit

Why are you going to waste your money in this industry if you have never done this before.
Please do your homework on the failure rate with "experts" on board and look at all the options you have with that money. Twenty percent will be a generous return on a restaurant, for the work involved twenty percent is not enough!
Well known Chefs (or not)are not always the most business savvy persons, what if he/she gets fed up in six weeks????
By the way, one of the best ways to find a good restaurant location is find a restaurant you like and is busy, and wait, there's a high percentage rate that it will fail within a year.
Also, get some national trade magazines, they usually have some establishments for sale or rent without the benefit of advertising locally by the existing owners, which may indicate the business is going down the tubes....sometimes, not always!
Good luck, save your money, go to Vegas, the odds are better!!!!!!!

By Chefgibz0 (Chefgibz0) on Tuesday, August 16, 2005 - 11:31 pm: Edit

Soooooooo, what you are saying is Manny is you would never own your own restaurant. Would you??

By Chefspike (Chefspike) on Wednesday, August 17, 2005 - 01:10 am: Edit

Why not look in Oakland?
It's up and com'in in some places, the rent compared to the city is lower.
Try giving your Chef, 10-15% of the biz. maybe he'll stay longer, work harder, and if it's HIS money he's spending he'll think twice before he wastes any of it.
Hire a student, maybe still in school and have him come up with, along with the chef, a pastry selection. Give him something to work towards and he'll stay longer too, and keep him on a tight leash, cause pastry chefs throw away 35% of what they bring in, cause most are too stupid to recycle old product into to new.
I don't think moving into a closed location is always the best thing to do.
Blaze a trail.
San Fransico City sucks, stay outside of it.
If your rest. is worth it, people will come to you. It happens all the time.

By Chefspike (Chefspike) on Wednesday, August 17, 2005 - 01:16 am: Edit

oh and while your driving around Oakland, look for wearhouse's that have closed.
It has the electrical power you need and most of the time plumping too.
It makes it easyer to run new pipes and duct work for heat and air conditioning.
If its 2 floors you can stick your offices up there so you can watch your back door.
you'll need to watch your back door.
If the place goes bust, then you have 2 floors of great space you can turn into anything.

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Wednesday, August 17, 2005 - 05:52 am: Edit

Nathan, I had my own and a catering business, that's when I was younger and dummer. I was 26 then, knowing what I know now; no I would not own a restaurant.
I like getting paid $150-$300 an hour to tell operators what they are doing wrong better!!!!....and teaching is fun!

By Miroslavw (Miroslavw) on Wednesday, August 17, 2005 - 03:27 pm: Edit

Thanks for the input everyone. This is all quite helpful.

Spike - do I detect a tone of disdain towards pastry chefs considering your previous career incarnation?


By Chefspike (Chefspike) on Wednesday, August 17, 2005 - 04:20 pm: Edit

I won't whitewash the fact that pastry and bake shops don't generally make money.
even at base salary's, insurance, cost of food on shelves, gas and electric, maintaning equipment, and the space taken up by these shops and you have a money pit.
It's all about "price per square foot" and what your paying for it and what you can get for it.
A table for two = 15-20 square ft.
A table for four = 20-25 sq. ft.
(that includes chairs and the space taken with people sitting in them)
How many time do you think you can turn those tables in the morning, lunch and dinner to make a daily profit?
So...why would you pay the same amount for something that your not going to get the same profit for?
IE...Bake or Pastry Shops.
If you get someone in there who understands these problems, who teaches her/himself how to re-use old product, how to keep the shelves not full of expensive food products, how to use their time wisely and is organized, and NOT a big long list of desserts on the menu.
Then you have a chance to turn a profit.
Even with an asst. for them.
But everyone should open the shop up for retail.
Birthday cakes, chocolates, ice creams, to go desserts.
Lets face it, all you really have to beat is Ralphs, costco, and the cakes the local gas station is selling.
Thats why I said hire a student, someone who's going to grow with the chef and the biz.
Stay away from expensive packaging.
Just good tasting products that are priced to sell. PRICED TO SELL.
One of the biggest mistakes that owners do and I see it here in Los Angeles is trying to make the investment back as soon as possible.
Big mistake. The investment should have a run of 3-4 years. That should be the goal.
You know this, you've waited for the investment to bloom before.
Nice and slow and sure. Thats the way to do it.

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Sunday, August 21, 2005 - 05:05 pm: Edit

Let us know what you do or find Miro, good luck!!!

By Mbw (Mbw) on Monday, August 22, 2005 - 03:56 pm: Edit

Welcome to Hell. Er I mean SF.

CRAIGSLIST is still San Francisco's best resource for labor, equipment, employees and employers.

Manny wasn't joking or if he was he was right on the button.

"one of the best ways to find a good restaurant location is find a restaurant you like and is busy, and wait, there's a high percentage rate that it will fail within a year."

If you have to BUY a restaurant and then sink money into it you will be behind a few years just to open up. I was fortunate enough to see a sign in a window for a place that was being rented by the landlord. The phone number they posted was off by a number so I did some research and got the right one. When I called the right number there was no answering machine so I called until I got a person. They were so happy to get a call they rented it right away for $1500 per month. It even had a hood, sink, floors to code, some refrigeration and an old 6 burner wolf.

You also may want to look for a business that is struggling and contact the landlord directly. Tell him to contact you if the current business folds. Property owners/managers often get stuck with a kitchen full of equipment that they pass off to an auctioneer only to be repurchased and hauled back months or years later. They would much rather give you a key than do all that work. Wouldn't you?

Just try not to buy "Good Will" you will need to recreate it yourself anyway.

Here in the Bay Area we have a guy that sells spaces, but you will have to pay! Try, he knows his stuff. I forgot his name. Once you get on the mailing list you will get his updates. This not only is informative for business reasons but it will give you a heads up as to who is selling even before the staff knows.

Oakland is indeed a very nice city (save 42nd and foothill), good parking, great weather, better rents and much more friendly to do business in. I don't want to be there myself but I admire its benefits.

Give me a shout if you want to.

By Miroslavw (Miroslavw) on Tuesday, August 30, 2005 - 09:38 pm: Edit

Spike - your post reminded me of a cafe owning friend who built this totally hip, comfortable coffee shop and then was pissed he couldn't get rid of the damned hippies with their guitars who stayed all day and had one cup of coffee.

Manny - thanks. I'll be certain to keep everyone in the loop.

Mbw - craigslist is a saviour for most no doubt. I have visited Steve Zimmerman's site a lot. It does seem that he has cornered it.

Thanks again all.


By Chefferd (Chefferd) on Saturday, September 03, 2005 - 07:05 pm: Edit

It may be possible to aquire the States Report on sales tax paid, see who is doing well and on the other hand who is not. Then keep an eye on the lower end of the report, visit these locations and see first hand if they are on the edge. Here we routinely read the State liquor report to judge ourself against our competion.

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