Experience vs. Location

Location alone cannot hinder nor promise success

By  Jim Fisher, Founder and CEO, IMST Corp.

[We encourage your questions, comments and counterpoints. Email them to awestra@cspnet.com.]

Pundits, "experts with expertise," gurus and many others over the course of time and history of foodservice concept creation and facility development have always professed the three most critical factors to determining success are location, location and location. Well, if they are indeed the three crucibles of a facility's success, then why is it:

  • A highly visible location churns out and spits up restaurant concepts at a record rate?
  • A much-recognized national brand closes at a class-A pad of a major "power center" positioned along a major artery with an average daily traffic volume over 80,000 vehicles?
  • A nationally branded facility that cost more than $3 million to develop closes in less than six months and is re-occupied with a unique proprietary concept that has operated for more than three years?
  • A fast-casual foodservice unit developed along an interstate highway with more than 150,000 vehicles per day does not last a year?

[image-nocss] If it is all about location, location, location, then why:

  • Does a unique, single site operation "tucked away" in a minimal corner location within a tertiary retail center positioned along a secondary vehicular artery become a "local destination" that has served the community for more than two decades? Oh, it only serves breakfast and lunch and you are assured of almost always having to wait at least a few minutes to be seated.
  • When multiple foodservice operations are located within the same highly exposed, highly visible destination point, a well-know national brand closes and an unknown proprietary offering flourishes?

Our staff travels on a weekly basis throughout the country. Some of our most memorable eating experiences are made possible by our clients saying, "While here, you must eat at Doomaflatchie's Paradise Grill, the best you can get anywhere." Nearly 110% of the time, they are absolutely right--great eating (not necessarily dining) experiences are created.

Normally, without having been told to do so and being relative strangers in the area, we would not patronize the majority of locations in which we have had so much fun.

All of us have our favorites which we routinely return to whenever we are back to an area on business, leisure, whatever the reason, because it is part of the overall experience we have enjoyed while in that particular city, town, neighborhood, etc. Further, we are disappointed when we return to the locale and it is closed. Why would it no longer be open? Certainly not because of the location, but rather, because it ceased to create experiences for its patrons.

Location is essentially important in establishing the viability of a proposed project, and all of the factors that go into the variables that determine a good location must be considered and analyzed (another topic for another time). However, it still remains only one factor when determining the formula for foodservice success. It is an element that combines with physical appearance, interior ambience/environment, presentation, menu offering (and its relevance to the trade area), welcoming action and acknowledgment, quality of service provided (at all levels), responsiveness to specific needs/wants, food quality, preparation details and personal requests, and recognized appreciation. These are the combined elements of experience--the "afterglow" that is created when you say to yourself (as a patron), "Yep, that is a keeper; add it to the list of want-to-do-agains."

Location becomes a point of significance when the experience created has altered your life and becomes part of it. Success is measured by when our public offering becomes a part of our patrons' private lives, and we fulfill a want/need that exists for them. It truly does matter in their eyes to be "the place where they know you by your name (or at least your face)." Gee, I've heard that saying before, just can't remember where.

It never fails to amaze me how, as another saying goes, the concept never changes, but the marketplace always does.

Jim Fisher is founder and CEO of IMST Corp., headquartered in Houston. He has more than 35 years of experience serving the foodservice and specialty retail industries. IMST is a retail sales analysis firm with customers ranging from Fortune 500 companies to individual, "once in a lifetime/way of life" entities throughout the U.S. He can be reached at (800) 231-4678 or jfisher@imstcorp.com.

[We encourage your questions, comments and counterpoints. Email them to awestra@cspnet.com.]

By Jim Fisher, Founder and CEO, IMST Corp.
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