Spring is here. The buds are starting to open. It is in the air. Everyone gets a frisk in their step and it’s as though we have fallen once again. In love? Yes, with the idea of a second, or third, or fourth location. Scott Maanum is slowing down when he sees that new “For Lease” sign on the corner of Main St.and First in Rice Lake, Wisconsin.
Tony Tollner has probably been on the prowl for a small cafe location in Monterey. And, Bill Lee, who has it bad, has most likely been gazing into empty windows, while walking with his son, mentally configuring his next concept
This time of year is a great season to scout new possibilities. The winter, no matter where you are located, has taken its toll on those culinarians who have barely been hanging on by the peels of a carrot. Yes, the wolves have gotten those guys and they too are out their licking their wounds on the way to a better concept. More appealing in taste, style and ambiance, than the one they just closed, thoughts are flooding their minds on what to do next.
So, there is space competition out there. Just because the lace has been vacant for over a year doesn’t mean you can’t make a go of it. The landlord is now ready to talk. You’ve got him on his knees. That concept you have been thinking about, late at night, while sipping that neat Johnny Walker in the dimly lit room will fly in that space. You know it will It will be a “rocket ship opening”.
When I was in New York, working for the famed John Cobb, proprietor of the original Allen’s he taught me how easy it is to start an “uptown” store. He did it in about a month. He had one location at 69th. Street, and on a whim leased a space in the 90’s and opened faster than he could get a Juke Box delivered. It was remarkable. It was my first lesson in “soft” openings. And, also a quick guide in increasing revenues. I could never figure why Cobb was attending law school while operating his restaurant empire.
At the time I thought it was a brilliant move. Buying power, shared staff, cross selling, cross promotion, one executive chef, one general manager. Everything fell into place, as it still does today. Plus, let’s be realistic, it is so much easier to be granted a lease from the Restaurant Landlord Gods, once you have an operation. They all figure you’ve got enough “walk around” to pay the rent on location number two.
On top of all this, the second location could be the one that adds just enough revenue to the bottom line to make the entire operation worth while.
The second location concept is a very wise business decision if you do have your first house in order. Without glitches? Of course not. If you don’t have glitches, bumps and problems you must be in a different business. What needs to happen if you are serious about the love affair with a second location is that you must be ready to accept the added stress, the longer hours, and the increased level of promotion, marketing, staff counseling, and schmoozing it will take to make it a success.
But I can guarantee one thing for sure. Nothing is as exciting as standing in one location on a weekend night, the crowd noisily hovering around waiting for a table, and you take a break, go to your office, bring the second location up on the laptop screen and see that the customers are also hovering, waiting for a table, at location number two. Multi- unit ownership is a great way to begin the new season.
Sign that lease today. You may not be glad you did, but if you don’t, you’ll never know the feeling that seems to be in the air. And, you’ll never know why Cobb decided on law school.