Mastering Site Selection: Top 7 Key Factors to Consider for Your Next QSR Location

Mastering QSR Site Selection

Over the next 5 years (2024 to 2029): Using the CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 5.60% over five years, the QSR (Quick Service Restaurant) market size in 2028 will be approximately USD 386.55 billion. Owning or investing in a QSR can be a highly profitable venture, however there are many key factors that must be considered in order for a QSR to have a successful and profitable ground site solution.

When building a new Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) location, there are several key factors to consider. Here are the top 7 factors to keep in mind:

Location: Choosing the right location is crucial for the success of a QSR. Factors to consider include visibility, accessibility, and proximity to other businesses and residential areas. A prime location can attract more customers and increase foot traffic to the restaurant. Consider the success of McDonald’s, a giant in the Quick Service Restaurant industry. Much of their triumph is attributed to their strategic choice of locations. McDonald’s often selects sites with high visibility, substantial foot traffic, easy access, and close proximity to populous residential and commercial areas. For instance, it’s not uncommon to find a McDonald’s restaurant near a busy intersection, shopping mall, or university campus, where it can attract a large number of customers. This exemplifies how a well-considered location is pivotal to the success of a QSR.

Site Size: The size of the site is also important, as it will determine the capacity of the restaurant and the number of customers it can serve at once. Jack in the Box, a prominent player in the quick-service restaurant industry, demonstrates a keen understanding of the importance of site size. Their preference for locales spanning at least 25,000 square feet caters not only to their operational needs but also to their customer service strategy. These spacious environments allow for a comprehensive kitchen setup to expedite order processing, ample seating for dine-in customers, and sufficient parking, a crucial draw for drive-through and carry-out patrons. For instance, a Jack in the Box outlet in San Diego, California, spreads over a substantial area, providing ample parking space that caters to the high volume of customers, especially during peak hours. This deliberate choice of larger sites enables the chain to serve a greater customer base efficiently, enhancing customer satisfaction and driving profitability.

Drive-thru: Drive-thru service is a popular option for QSRs, and it can significantly increase sales. When designing a new location, it’s important to consider the layout of the drive-thru and the number of lanes needed to handle customer traffic. The importance of a drive-thru in QSRs cannot be overstated, especially in light of the recent COVID-19 pandemic. A prominent example is Starbucks, which has seen a significant increase in revenue from their drive-thru locations. Their strategic reimagining of the drive-thru experience, offering mobile order pick-up and contactless payment options, has not only allowed them to continue serving customers amidst social distancing measures but also improved customer convenience and service efficiency. For instance, at a Starbucks location in Seattle, Washington, the drive-thru lane accounted for over 60% of total sales during the peak of the pandemic. This case underscores the potential of a well-planned drive-thru to boost a QSR’s sales and customer satisfaction, while ensuring safety and compliance in times of crisis.

Building design: The design of the building should be attractive and eye-catching, while also being functional and efficient. It should also be consistent with the brand’s image and values. The design of a QSR building plays an integral role in its brand positioning and customer perception. Take Chipotle Mexican Grill as an example. Chipotle’s building design is a clear reflection of its core values – “Food with Integrity”. Their use of reclaimed woods, steel, and minimalist aesthetics not only makes their outlets visually appealing but also mirrors their commitment to sustainability and environmental responsibility. The design also includes open kitchens where customers can see their food being prepared, thus reinforcing their transparency and dedication to wholesome, fresh ingredients.

Parking: Sufficient parking is necessary to accommodate customers, especially during peak hours. The number of parking spaces needed will depend on the size of the restaurant and the expected volume of customers. An example highlighting the significance of parking provision for a successful QSR is In-N-Out Burger, a popular chain in the western United States. Their restaurants are often characterized by ample parking spaces, catering to their high customer volume. For instance, an In-N-Out Burger outlet in Los Angeles, California, has a spacious parking area that accommodates the influx of customers, keeping potential traffic congestion at bay and preserving the smooth flow of vehicles. The availability of ample parking not only improves customer experience by reducing wait times but also increases the restaurant’s capacity to serve more customers, thereby driving higher sales. This example emphasizes the importance of integrating sufficient parking into the planning stage of a QSR, which can significantly impact its overall success and profitability.

Zoning and permits: Before building a new QSR location, it’s important to ensure that the site is properly zoned for commercial use and that all necessary permits have been obtained. Zoning and permits are critical to consider when planning a new QSR location to ensure compliance with local regulations and avoid legal hurdles. An example of this is seen with Chick-fil-A, a renowned QSR. Before establishing a new location in a city center, Chick-fil-A spent time understanding the city’s zoning regulations and procuring all requisite permits. This process was crucial to avoid potential legal disputes and costly delays. For instance, when planning a location in San Antonio, Texas, the company had to navigate stringent zoning laws and secure specific permits pertaining to building codes, health and safety regulations, and signage restrictions. The time taken to understand and comply with these regulations set the stage for a smooth and legal opening of the new location. This underlines the importance of obtaining all necessary zoning permissions and permits before constructing a new QSR location.

Competition: Finally, it’s important to consider the competition in the area. A new QSR location should be strategically located to attract customers and stand out from other nearby restaurants. The consideration of competition in the area is another crucial factor in the planning of a new QSR location. The placement of the restaurant should be strategic enough to draw customers, striking a balance between customer convenience and uniqueness in comparison to other nearby restaurants. For example, Dunkin’ Donuts, a leading coffee shop and QSR, employs an exhaustive analysis of competitor locations before opening a new outlet. In New York City, where there is an abundance of coffee shops, Dunkin’ has intelligently positioned its outlets in areas where competitors like Starbucks are sparse. By doing this, Dunkin’ capitalizes on the market gap, providing coffee lovers in those areas a convenient option and reducing their inclination to travel further for a Starbucks. This strategy emphasizes the importance of scrutinizing competitor locations to effectively position a new QSR in a way that maximizes customer reach and minimizes direct competition, ultimately leading to a thriving business.

By considering these key factors, QSR owners and operators can increase the chances of success for their new location. By paying close attention to the building design, parking provision, zoning and permits, and competition in the area, a QSR can not only attract more customers but also establish a strong brand presence. Furthermore, these factors contribute to ensuring that the new location is safe, legally compliant, and financially viable for long-term success. Investing time and resources into these considerations will undoubtedly lead to a profitable and sustainable QSR business.

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