Now serving: Olive Garden

Many factors dictate where chain restaurants locate

Many factors dictate where chain restaurants locate

January 28, 2008|By JULIE E. GREENE

So how do chain restaurant companies decide where to open?

Mara Frazier, manager of media relations for the Italian-style restaurant chain, said company officials consider whether the market has a healthy economy. Is there a growing population and new business development? And how do those two things support each other?

They also consider proximity to other casual dining restaurants, Frazier said - how many there are, how well they are doing and what types of cuisine they offer.

Visibility is important. Many chains want a high traffic area, industry officials said.

The new Olive Garden was built near Valley Mall. The areas around the mall and along Wesel Boulevard and Railway Lane lie next to an Interstate 81 exit and very close to Interstate 70, and have attracted many chain restaurants.


Opening near other restaurants can be good or bad, depending on how similar a restaurant's concept is to others nearby, said Annika Stensson, National Restaurant Association spokeswoman. If they have different concepts, they might help draw traffic to each other, she said.

Chains develop formulas to determine where to open new stores, Stensson said. Some are tied to pedestrian or auto traffic. If your restaurant's focus is lunch, you want to be in an area that gets a lot of lunchtime business, she said. Often the formulas center around the local population's age and income.

Maureen Locus, spokeswoman for Brinker International, which owns Chili's Grill & Bar and Macaroni Grill, said company officials consider consumer demand, easy access off interstates, reasonable costs and certain brand-specific criteria.

Some casual dining restaurants aim for the upper end of the income scale.

Andy Gunkler, senior vice president of development for Quaker Steak & Lube, said company officials prefer an area with 175,000 to 200,000 people within a five- to seven-mile radius, an average household income of at least $50,000 and a site passed by at least 40,000 automobiles each day. They also look at the area's daytime population, the lunch crowd.

Gunkler said Quaker Steak & Lube has looked at sites in the Hagerstown/Frederick area recently. Not all market investigations of this sort come to fruition, he added.

The odds of the Hagerstown area getting a Cheesecake Factory are probably not great. Howard Gordon, senior vice president of business development and marketing, said Cheesecake Factory is a destination restaurant that needs a lot of lunch and dinner traffic. He said the chain targets areas where the average household income is $50,000 to $75,000 and there are at least 250,000 people living within a five-mile radius. Other factors include the lease deal and how the surrounding area is developed.

For those unfamiliar with the Cheesecake Factory experience, the upscale casual dining restaurant offers 200 menu items and more than 50 desserts - featuring, of course, cheesecake.

Williamsport residents Teresa Dick, 39, and Patty Felix, 44, said they like Cheesecake Factory. Asked for more specifics, they said, "(We like) everything!"

Their friend Debbie Smith, 57, of Williamsport, also is a fan.

"You just go in there and drool," Smith said.

Dick said she would also like to see a Macaroni Grill, an Italian restaurant, in the Hagerstown area.

Other restaurants local residents mentioned they'd like to see in the area included The Greene Turtle Sports Bar & Grille, Five Guys Famous Burgers and Fries, Baja Fresh, Hard Times Cafe, Famous Dave's Legendary Pit Bar-B-Que, O'Charley's, Bojangles' and Seor Tequila.

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