Before you open a retail business, read this

I was hungry by about 11:30 yesterday morning so I set out to find something quick and relatively fresh.

As I pulled into the parking lot of my local psuedo-strip mall, the first place I noticed was Qdoba. I was on autopilot and didn’t give it a second thought. Qdoba is not as good as Chipotle, but its usually pretty consistent, so I pulled in. The lot was pretty full, but it was early so I thought I’d be okay.

Qdoba can be seen from everywhere in the parking lot. I drove in without thinking about it.

Nope.

The place was packed and every table was full. There are at least twenty people in line, and as people walked in and saw as much, like me they walked right back out.

My stomach growled angrily as I left the place, and I thought “now where am I going to eat?”

I scanned the parking lot and realized there was a Quizno’s tucked in the corner, probably 100 to 120 feet away. I’ve lived near here since 2001 and I’ve never seen it there. Seriously.

Quizno's was tucked away so well, I didn't know it was there -- after seven years.

There was one car in front, so I ambled over and opened the door. There were no lines and every table was empty. The service was quick and friendly. I had a full four-top table to myself. And the food was fresh and tasted good.

Although I have no research to support it, I can’t believe Qdoba isn’t good enough to pull 20x the traffic as Quizno’s, especially in the same geography.

It had to be something else, and here’s what I believe it is:

You can see Qdoba from just about everywhere in the parking lot. The only way you can see Quiznos is if you pull into their small section of the parking lot and actually face their restaurant.

If Quizno’s was as visible as Qdoba, it surely would have taken a greater share of the business.

Consider these three things if you are getting ready to open a retail business that relies on foot traffic:

Location.
Location.
Location.

But location isn’t just geography. It’s more than that. Consider sight lines. Consider where the competition is situated. Consider how people both on foot and in cars will be able to see you. And remember, most people don’t think twice about where they are going, they just go.

Are your customers on autopilot when they buy?

Are you?

What types of businesses do you frequent without thinking twice?

Comment below to weigh in.

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Judy Dunn says:

    Hi Patrick,

    I followed you over here from Biznik. Your blog post is timely. I am writing an article for a local business newspaper on the criteria for locating a small business retail shop at this very moment. In addition to visibility, which you mentioned (very important), when locating a retail store, I would add traffic flow, what you are selling (specialty products, which people are more willing to drive out of their way to; convenience products (where customers need easy access to get in and out), etc., where your target customers hang out, and even where complimentary businesses might be that you could tap more customers from (for instance a nail salon and a hair stylist). As far as where the competition is located, I actually had a restaurateur tell me once that he likes other restaurants coming in near him. He says when people are offered more choices, they are sometimes inclined to eat out more often and everyone benefits. (Maybe not so much in this economic downturn, though.) Go figure.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post.

  • Judy,

    Great comments, all, and I couldn’t agree more. The reason I went to that particular location was because I knew there were a host of options available to me.

    The restaurateur you mention is spot on. In some categories, it’s better to be surrounded by your competitors than to be the only player around (which flies in the face of ‘hit ’em where they ain’t). If you can create a draw, like wineries, or the soon-to-be-opened Woodinville Wine Village, and you’ve got a destination instead of just another place to eat or grab a drink.

    Tully’s strategy regarding location selection has always been “open up across the street from Starbucks.”

    Thank you for joining the conversation. I’d love a copy of your article when you finish it.

    Cheers,

    Patrick

Leave a Reply