All Articles Food Restaurant and Foodservice A restaurant's guide to nontraditional locations

A restaurant’s guide to nontraditional locations

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Restaurant and Foodservice

As exhibitors set up their wares (and began heating up the day’s free samples) early Sunday morning at the NRA Show 2010, I headed over to the education sessions. My first stop was a well-populated “Expanding Your Brand Into Nontraditional Locations,” featuring a panel of experts from F.C. Dadson, Checkers Drive-In, Denny’s, Seattle’s Best and Brush Enterprises.

The first step in opening a nontraditional location is to make sure you understand the lifestyle of your customer. Are they in airports, truck stops or convenience stores? Are they college students or do they work in office buildings? Seattle’s Best, for example, did its market research and opened a restaurant concept inside Macy’s.

Nontraditional locations can help you attract new customers, further build your brand and provide an innovation training ground. For example, when Denny’s launched its first express concept, it had to rethink its menu offerings. The company is known for its Grand Slam, which wouldn’t translate well into an express concept, so the company debuted the Grand Slamwich. The item is so popular that it has since been rolled out in traditional Denny’s locations.

Another benefit of nontraditional locations, said Seattle’s Best’s Maria Gill, is that they provide captive audiences. If you’re the only restaurant in an office building, customers are far more likely to come to you than venture outside for a bite. Keep in mind that these benefits don’t just apply to the big guys. Local and regional brands hold real appeal for some nontraditional locations, such as airports. Also, if you’re smaller, you’re probably more nimble than a larger operation, and that may give you an advantage in opening nontraditional locations, where an openness to change is crucial.

So what are the tough parts of nontraditional locations? You need to make sure you can cook or prep your food in a smaller area or be prepared to do so offsite. Ensure that your supply chain and distribution will work in a nontraditional space. You may need to reconfigure your menu, as well as your price points.

Overall, the session highlighted how nontraditional locations, whether they are mobile trucks, airport locations, office buildings or college campuses, can help your overall business succeed.

Image credit, mamahoohooba, via iStockphoto