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Restaurant Locations


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A comment in the Century thread made me start thinking about restaurant locations. What is a good, bad or ugly location. What area will make a restaurant succeed or fail or does it have no bearing where it is? There are restaurants in Yaletown that sit empty most nights while their neighbours are turning customers away because they are sold out. There are restaurants in the middle of no-where that are phenomenal and do a great business like The Cannery and IMO Chambar. What are your comments on areas in Vancouver? Kits, Coal Harbour, Gastown, Yaletown, Granville Street, Main etc.

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I think it ultimately depends on the clientelle. Some restaurants can survive just by walk-by traffic and being in the "location, location, location". However, not all restaraunteurs can afford such high rent and prime real estate so there must always be compromises.

I think it's a case of how deserving the restaurant is. The better the restaurant, the more "out of the way" the restaurant can be. If a restaurant has is extremely well managed, and also in a great location, it will do better than bad restaurants in good locations. Of course, bad restaurants will always fall back on selling booze to make it up. (Watermark, Mill Marine Bistro, Granville Strip..)

In terms of clientelle, I think people who are willing to spend more for a good meal will also be willing to travel more. People who spend less are much more spontaneous in their decisions from a saturated Vancouver market.. (think walk-by traffic from major events, like the fireworks)

That being said, Parkside, Wild Rice, Baru Latino, and all the restaurants in Stanley Park and other Vancouver parks are all doing extremely well. Location shouldn't matter if you have a top-notch restaurant.

Bis Moreno on the other hand, left painfully and surprisingly to the Vancouver scene. I think it was a case of not the food that bankrupted Bis Moreno, but nearby competition. They were attracting a similar clientelle that can go to C or Nu for the same price point and afford a view. In terms of pricing, I think many people thought it was overpriced (both in wine and food); the concept of tasting menu was also outdated (as seen with the Lumière/Feenies trial). The atmosphere was also a little stuffier.. Vancouverites don't like that.

One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.

Virginia Woolf

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Location plays a big part. But so does selling a good product for a fair price regardless of the caliber of dining. I think consistency also plays a vital role. That being said, location can clearly help if you are weak on points 2 and 3.

Look at Las margaritas, on a busy part of 4th, and not far from the beach. It's busy all the time. Lets not forget Topanga too.

-Spaghetti Factory...that place must do a half dozen turns at least in the summer. This place has been around since the 70's. Imagine owning it, with everything inside long paid for. A food cost based on dry pasta and sauce...Ka CHING!

-Joe Fortes...another very busy place

-Keg Caesars

-Fresgos (who hasn't gone here after being at the bar)

-Go Fish...kind of granville island, but kind of hidden too.

-the Boathouse

-The Tea House

Almost all of these places have been around for a very long time. Kind of like your classic rock of restaurants I suppose.

There are places that buck the odds by being slightly off the beat like Chambar, La Bodega or Le Gavroche. All good places.

I've always noticed that decent places that are not at top of the price point scale churn out a living on the West Side. Lots of customers don't want to have to go downtown for dinner. The same applies to why la Regalade in West Van is so busy pretty much any night of the week. It's nice to get a good meal without having to leave your "hood".

There are of course the "jinxed" locations. Why is it that Rare's previous tenants have not fared well, yet Il Giardino (across the street) and Kettle of Fish (on the corner) have been around for years? Century's area may be bustling during the day, but at night the area is dead.

I bet Jamie Maw can offer some great history on this subject.

Edited by Stinky Cook (log)
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I walked by a new restaurant on the waterfront on Monday and it was virtually empty. One table on the patio deciding if they would stay or not and a couple having cocktails at the bar. This was at 7:30 pm. Next door to it is another restaurant that has been around for 3 years or so. It had a full patio and was at least 1/2 full inside, a good business for a long weekend. Is the restaurant next to it jinxed because it is the site of a previously failed restaurant? Is the concept ill conceived. Are customers fickle with new businesses or overly cautious about spending their money until they read reviews or hear from word of mouth? I wonder how you can miss in Yaletown on the waterfront?

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Location is important, but as you point out, wildebeest, there are many anomalies in the determination of what constitutes a solid locational draw.

Of course there are many other components to that determination; perhaps you'd like to consider this . . .

What We Saw

Over time we’ve come to a conclusion that atmospherics complementary to human enjoyment in restaurants can be broken down into several components.

We were given to analyze the human need for atmosphere and comfort on a cruise ship, of all places. It proved a near-perfect place to research what fuels human intercourse; what with all the many different public spaces to gather in, competing with each other for attention and attendance, which ones actually drew people in?

The cruise ship seemed a perfect ‘control’ for our analysis for other reasons: Drinks are priced the same throughout the ship and dining options, with one exception, are included in the price of the ticket—also a level playing field.

After discounting the ‘must-go’ spaces such as the main (and huge) dining rooms and theatre, we found the spaces that consistently drew crowds, especially during ‘free time’, were not the more spectacular venues, nor even special attraction venues - such as the disco or casino - that were designed to draw in evening passengers.

In fact the two most popular rooms included the piano bar, a fairly innocuously decorated but intimate room with a small bar, quiet live jazz and opportunities for conversation.

The second attractive venue was the mid-ships bar, where another piano singer tooled, and where people felt comfortable and relaxed and where there was a continuous flow of people, with a long L-shaped bar and lively bartenders the centrepiece. (Often passengers would be lined three-deep for a drink, while they could have been served instantly in other shipboard venues.)

The third was the formal private dining room, which offered a special menu every evening, at a premium over the main dining room. Shortly after embarkation it was sold out for the entire voyage.

During our evening tours of the ship, it struck my fiancée and me that there were several features that separated these venues from the dozen or so other choices available:

• These popular venues were rectangles approximately 1.5 times longer than wide (ideal Palladian symmetry, and with fairly low ceilings);

• One venue was a cross-roads in the ship, the other two more difficult to find (the private dining room offered economic exclusion) but all allowed for conversation, i.e. they were natural places to see, be seen, and to meet and talk with fellow-travellers;

• In each of the venues the service was friendly and efficient, but most of all—nearby;

• Two of the venues had live, but quiet music;

• The venues shared what people strive for—even crave—whether at home or travelling: a sense of intimacy.

• The venues were popular—people wanted to be there and did show up to be seen and to observe each other.

Bringing these ‘dimensions of intimacy’ back home and analyzing where we and our friends felt most comfortable in restaurant spaces, it was easy to see that most of our those venues met these criteria. In other words, when we have a night off and are eating for pure pleasure, the places we select—perhaps unconsciously—combine these virtues.

But there was one thing missing from this casual analysis. When people are attracted to a restaurant or bar venue—even when they’re travelling—we think they will, quite naturally choose to dine or drink with people who look just like them. Some of that, as any decent concierge or maitre d' will tell you, is economically determined, but we came to feel that on a ship, where the food is egalitarian and the drinks priced the same venue-to-venue, was also sociologically determined (only the private dining room provided any real economic barrier).

It also explained to us the ‘swarming effect’—why some venues, which might not have that so-called ‘wow’ effect of eye-popping design, draw crowds every night. Further, it explained the antithesis: Why over-designed or contrived spaces quite often (unwittingly) actually drive diners away. The fact that often these rooms combine eye-popping attitude as well does not help their cause.

Our observations also helped explain that old cliché about house parties; why everyone, sooner or later and given just half a chance, ends up in the kitchen. We’re convinced that it’s because humans want the opportunity to share that elusive thing called intimacy, and if an oxygenated atmosphere and the kindling (the food, the wine and the service) are further conducive—even love.

Edited by jamiemaw (log)

from the thinly veneered desk of:

Jamie Maw

Food Editor

Vancouver magazine


Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

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Our observations also helped explain that old cliché about house parties; why everyone, sooner or later and given just half a chance, ends up in the kitchen.

Not a restaurant per se, but apropos to that quote above, there is a great new concept in Vancouver called Dish This! - which is an in-home cooking class and cooking party business. I hosted a cooking party last week and it was SUPER. I found that my dinner parties always ended up in the kitchen anyway, and it was nice to have a real professional chef (she was even on TV a while back) come into my little kitchen and show my guests how to make what we were about to eat. this is the website : www.dish-this.com.

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Location- location- location

This is what all educators in the hospitality industry teach us. The location drives the bottom line of any business and is the major factor in determining the concept.

The biggest weakness in the restaurant business these days is in the planning stage- the very beginning of someones dreams or idea. They have part of a concept that fits into a location or is it that a location fitting into their concept. The main thing is more then location is that most successful restaurants have solid concepts, they know who their market is.

This is a very important factor- location-location-location; without a proper concept and a market driven idea, location will eventually fail because there is not market to what is being sold.

Walk in traffic as many up thread talked about is very important and this is one of the biggest factors in location. You need that walk in traffic to survive and with less people driving because of DWI- this creates even more importance to location.

Concept and a proper location will determine the success of a restaurateur and a proper menu to fit the location and concept round out the circle along with good controls and management and you have a good recipe for success.

Location location location


Edited by stovetop (log)
Cook To Live; Live To Cook
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I would have to agree with stovetop. For us it was location. We are around 5 months in and the majority of our customers are walk in's. we are a half block off one of the busier parts of the city. We have some regulars but they alone do not fill the place. We have noticed that when we have one or two people in the restaurant, people who are walking by, generally stop to look at the menu posted outside and then come in.

Our concept is not very ground breaking either, we are serving locally grown food. I spend alot of time at the farmers market and I also spend time tracking down people who fish, farm, or raise animals. The only probelm I might have is in the winter time. Lots of potato dishs ! Most people here are too used to franchises and are surprised at what is in their own back yard.

Dan Walker


Weczeria Restaurant

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i personally as a consumer wouldn't care about location. i'd go anywher. i beleive that if you make good food people will find you. where i work right now (le crocodile) has horrible location but people know it.

bork bork bork

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While I agree that location plays it's part, explain then, the success of Chambar, Wild Rice and Casis Bistro et al who have great food, service and ambience but not locations (in fact, Chambar has been pivotal in the gentrification of the area) and people beat a path to thier door. I applaud restauranteurs/chefs who have the chutzpah to go out on a limb and open a restaurant that is off the beaten path.

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