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D.C.’s Experiential Restaurant Trends Are Brought To You By Real Estate


Millennials are flocking to Washington, D.C., bringing with them a hunger for healthy and convenient food options. To meet this demand, fast-casual staples like CAVA, Chop't and Taylor Gourmet are expanding their reach into several emerging D.C. neighborhoods.

Larger restaurant groups have also introduced fast, healthy options. Fox Restaurants, for instance, is bringing a new fast-casual line called Flower Child to D.C. 

This growing trend, which offers a fresher alternative to fast food, took off in the early 2000s and has become the epicenter of D.C.’s culinary scene. Now, it is paving the way for other experiential restaurant concepts across the region.

As restaurateurs look for more opportunities to set up shop across the region, they want to make sure they find property with the space and location that helps them create experiences for their customers. 

“The face of retail is not what it used to be, but the business is still about creating a tailored experience,” Papadopoulos Properties founder Thomas Papadopoulos said. “You can get food delivered to your house or apartment, but eating dinner with friends is a different experience, and one that many D.C. residents enjoy.”

Papadopoulos Properties, a full-service commercial real estate firm based in D.C., has found many of the region’s most prominent restaurant groups a home. Founded in 1984, the firm has helped landlords across the city reposition their properties and diversify their tenant mix with a diverse selection of restaurant concepts. The firm has touched just about every neighborhood in D.C. 

When Papadopoulos approaches a transaction, he thinks about how a retail tenant will contribute to the overall community. This often means doing research on what kinds of commercial tenants and residents are in the area. To create the best possible experience for tenants and their customers, Papadopoulos looks for neighborhoods with significant foot traffic, and a combination of commercial and residential spaces. This promotes a diverse tenants mix and provides an opportunity for patrons to participate in a culinary experience.

Mixed-use developments in busy neighborhoods have proven successful for restaurateurs. In D.C.’s central business district, CityCenter provides access to shops, cafés and bars. Nearby hotels, along with Class-A apartment buildings and public parks, increase foot traffic around the development and create a prime location for restaurant tenants. 

Further south, The Wharf is reimagining D.C.’s historic waterfront as a master-planned community with hotels, apartments, offices, a 6,000-seat concert venue and retail. The waterfront development, modeled after similar neighborhoods like Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, draws traffic from residents and tourists alike.  

While several restaurants have successfully leased space around already established neighborhoods, other tenants are looking to rebrand emerging neighborhoods. Papadopoulos is currently working on retail leasing at the former St. Elizabeths hospital site in Anacostia

"Retail is no longer just shopping," Papadopolous said. "Food and entertainment are the new anchor tenants in mixed-use projects, and they help draw in office and multifamily apartments into new, up-and-coming neighborhoods."

As D.C.’s restaurant scene continues to evolve, the leasing team at Papadopoulos Properties is gearing up for the next big trend. Fast-casual retail will continue to transform the industry, Papadopoulos said, but food halls are also high on his radar. 

“Food halls are growing in popularity because they offer several different types of options in a single space,” Papadopoulos said. “D.C. residents continue to look for healthy food experiences, and the industry is getting creative about how to effectively meet that demand.” 

This feature was produced in collaboration between Bisnow Branded Content and Papadopoulos Properties. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.