Site Selection Tips for Restaurant Tenants

Site Selection Tips for Restaurant Tenants

By Dale Willerton – The Lease Coach

As I speak at major restaurant shows throughout North America, I routinely advise my audiences of the importance of proper site selection. The commercial space chosen by a restaurant tenant can, in fact, be a deciding factor in the success or failure of the business.

I consider this issue so important that I have devoted an entire chapter to it in my new book, Negotiating Commercial Leases & Renewals For Dummies (Wiley, 2013). Here are just a few of the additional elements you should be evaluating when viewing available commercial space for lease and considering before signing on the dotted line:

Location Within the Location: Where is the commercial unit situated within the shopping plaza? Would you be leasing inside the plaza/mall or on the pad outside? Would you be located at the end of an abandoned anchor store or adjacent to a liquor store?

Accessibility: How easily can your customers access your new restaurant? Are there stairs leading to your front door? If so, elderly diners may have difficulty getting to your door. Another often-overlooked issue can be how do drivers approach and access your restaurant (can they easily turn right into your parking lot or will a left turn across busy oncoming traffic be required?).

Visibility: Can your restaurant be seen from the street? Or, are there trees or other buildings blocking the view? Visibility by both drive-by and walk-by traffic is ideal.

Parking: This is another one of the key issues to evaluate prior to signing your first Lease. In my own experience, I have seen parking to be a highly contentious issue and one of the hardest things to correct after the Lease has been signed. Typically, there are only so many parking spaces assigned and, once they are taken, they are gone. Negotiate for plenty of parking spots – so that you, your staff and your customers all have a place to leave vehicles. Consider where those parking spaces are located as well … those closer to your restaurant door can be preferable. Should you also be offering food delivery service, reserving a couple of parking stalls directly in front of your restaurant for your delivery drivers can also greatly help.

Signage: What signage is available to you? What type of signage is this? Where is it located?  Where would your restaurant name be placed on a common pylon sign shared by other tenants? Would you be charged for any additional signage requested? Negotiate now for “grand opening” signage (e.g. banners and/or pull-away signs).

Anchor Tenants: These are the major businesses/retailers which pull customer traffic to a property. Typically, they are major grocery or department stores; however, this is not always the case. Consider the stability of those anchors. How long have they remained in the property? Are they planning to remain or move? I well remember how many tenants leasing in a small shopping plaza near my home were caught off-guard when the grocery store anchor moved out.

Broker – Friend or Foe? It is not uncommon for a restaurant tenant to believe that the real estate agent or broker is working for them. However, it should be noted that the listing agent’s commission is being paid by the landlord and even an outside agent may be sharing in that commission. Remember, the higher the rent often the higher the agent’s commission. Whether a landlord-paid agent can represent two masters you will have to decide for yourself. Brokers and Agents do a great job, but who are they doing the job for and who is paying them to do it? Even the most altruistic agent can’t serve two masters equally.

As The Lease Coach since 1993, I have helped many new and existing restaurant tenants negotiate first-time leases and lease renewals as well as choose the most appropriate business location. A good restaurant in a poor location ultimately becomes a poor business.

Please request my free leasing CD, Leasing Do’s & Don’ts for Restaurant Tenants via e-mail to

Dale Willerton is The Lease Coach and author of “Negotiating Commercial Leases & Renewals For Dummies.  Dale is also a recognized public speaker as well as a member of the Washington Restaurant Association. Got a leasing question? Need help with a new lease or renewal? Call 1-800-738-9202, e-mail or visit


Categories: Uncategorized