At first look, the idea of putting restaurants all together in the same space may seem like poor planning by creating too much competition in one area. But often times restaurant rows and other clustering concepts are deliberate and very practical.
Clustering restaurant concepts together allows for restaurants to offer customers more than one dining experience in one convenient area. For example, some diners might want a high end sit down experience while others want a more casual grab and go. So a restaurateur may deliberately seek spaces that are close together. This way, they may be able to keep their customers from going elsewhere for food. Think of a couple from out of town that didn’t plan ahead to make a reservation at the high-end concept. They may be quite happy to discover that they can enjoy the chef’s food just down the street, no reservation required, in a more causal atmosphere.
Clustering concepts doesn’t just work well in terms of customer retention either. It also allows restaurants the convenience of sharing. Should one restaurant be overstaffed and the other understaffed, a quick scheduling change is fairly simple. As is sharing stock and inventory and anything else that comes about.
Although clustering concepts tends to be favored by larger restaurant groups that may have several different restaurants within one block, all with a unique character, it can also work well for budding entrepreneurs looking to start small and expand as space within an area becomes available.
Clusters of food carts, better known as food pods have cropped up as the foodie scene continues to grow and diners look for new options. Food pods allow budding chefs the ability to serve their food to the public without the expense of a standalone restaurant. And while it may seem counterintuitive to cluster with other budding businesses, food pods actually seem to boost business for the cart owners. Functioning as a kind of unofficial food court, diners from the same group can choose their own meal without being constrained to ordering from a single menu. It also allows cart owners the opportunity to learn from each other and find what works best. By offering minimalist seating and easy to eat options all in one place, customers can park once and explore a variety and then come back at another time to try a different cart. Some cart owners may eventually leave the pod to create a traditional restaurant, while others have carts in multiple pods, in the tradition of restaurant chains.
Food halls are coming back into vogue as a sort of modern food court. Usually located in downtown areas, they offer restaurants the ability to focus mainly on the food, rather than the larger dining experience concept. Some food halls may be the work of a single chef or brand and offer many different ideas in one location, while others are shared spaces with different chefs and brands. Food hall stalls can be ways for restaurateurs to test new waters and concepts or ways for standalone restaurants to further expand their reach.
Although restaurant rows and their offshoots are often good investments, they often rely on larger attractions to drive traffic, such as tourism or office spaces. If an office building closes or an attraction moves, then there is also the risk that all of the concepts in the area will close, rather than a single restaurant if concepts are scattered throughout a city.