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These 4 Things Are The Deciding Factor For Many NYC Restaurants

With hundreds of restaurants throughout the city and rising rents and restrictions, there’s little room for error for NYC eateries looking to deliver an amazing experience. While the panelists for Bisnow’s Restaurant Development Forum—which will be held at Lucille’s Bar and Grill Aug. 16—believe everything needs to come together for a restaurant to truly take off, there are several major design factors to consider.


The biggest factor is location. After all, 5 Napkin Burger CEO Robert Guarino (pictured) says, real estate will be your most important cost, so you need to know that you’re effectively utilizing every inch of your space and that a location fits your theme. 

In order to create a “next generation bar and grill,” for example, 5 Napkin looks for corner locations with high ceilings, and implements a décor to make the dining experience feel like something special, even though it's for less cost.

He says to always be on the lookout for unique drivers, like theaters, hotels or nightclubs, that can get people to change their dining routines.

“Otherwise” he tells Bisnow, "it’s very hard nowadays to make a casual concept work if you are only busy at 1pm and 7:30pm."


NYC Hospitality Alliance executive director Andrew Rigie says, foot traffic, competition, and the mix of residential and commercial spaces are important things to keep track of when looking at a potential location. Dream Hotel Group CEO Jay Stein (pictured) says local demographics are the key factor in deciding which of Dream Hotels' many partners to work with.


Hospitality House head of strategy and development Shane Davis (pictured on the mic at a Bisnow event) says developers are increasingly acknowledging the "accretive value" restaurants bring to assets and neighborhoods, especially given the shifting tides from conventional to experiential retail.

This is definitely good news for restaurateurs, Shane says, but they should still consider pioneering neighborhoods that have seen a ton of residential development, but still lack the amenities to draw high-profile, high-rent-paying tenants. Shane mentioned Gowanus and Downtown Brooklyn in particular will be seeing some huge development in the future and provide restaurateurs the opportunity to bring in revenue with relatively affordable rent if they can create a unique experience.


But, the little things matter too. Crown Architecture & Consulting principal Anthony Milano (pictured) says any successful space will need street frontage access, natural light and, if possible, outdoor café space. It's also important to remember the logistics: Where will the vents be? The garbage disposal? Where will deliveries be brought to so they don’t break the flow of the kitchen or wait staff? Every single aspect of design needs to maximizes efficiency on a daily basis.


Pointing to mobile payments, delivery platforms and even the increasing role of guest analytics, Andrew believes tech is playing a more important role in determining who’s purchasing, how much they’re spending and how to encourage them to spend more.

Anthony, Jay and Manhattan Chamber of Commerce president Jessica Walker agree that social media, outreach and online reviews could be a huge determinant of what’s trendy and where Millennials will look for a quick meal.


Jay says he’s even had to hire a marketing manager for each hotel, something that was unimaginable even a few years ago. Hotels and hotel restaurants, the CEO says, now have to be focused on creating excitement by using Instagram and hosting more creative events and activities that have the potential to go viral.

But, underlying all of this, Robert says, is a smart business model. The restaurant business will always be hard, he tells Bisnow, but if you can find an equilibrium that balances rent and labor costs and works with the demographic you’re looking for, you can find success even amid uncertainty, like that caused by Brexit or the upcoming election.