13 Points Checklist for Site Selection for Restaurants

Location, location, location - How to begin the site selection process for food services for your franchisees.

There are lots of factors in determining sites for your franchisee. The practice of site selection is both art and science.  Many old-time real estate guys don’t believe in demographic analysis and believe you have to “Smell the ground“ for site selection to be truly successful. I am a firm believer in the art of site selection.

Here’s the art for site selection for a franchisee’s 1st unit: 

1. Easy access to franchisees' homes

We want the franchisee to be able to have a relatively easy commute to work.  Why buy a business, and then have a 60-minute commute? There is nothing more frustrating to a franchisee than having to drive through heavy traffic or 60 minutes to answer a police/fire alarm at 2 AM in the morning. 

It is better to move franchisees home than to pick a bad location. Buying a franchise is a life-changing event.  Moving to a better location could and should be part of that commitment. The first step in site selection is the drive to the neighbourhood where you currently live and shop and look for FOR RENT signs.

2. Not too big, not too small

Look for locations that fit your size and rent according to the 5-year Pro-forma. Too big’s high rent can cut deeply into profit, too small will not allow for the correct seat-age and will not deliver the possible revue needed to make the business profitable.

3. Use demographic analysis to say NO, rather than YES. 

Great site selection takes time and effort.  NO is always a good answer to a bad location.  Do not compromise on a location just to get a unit open.  Lots of sites will look good on paper, but once visited will be a disaster.

4. The walk and the talk of site selection

If your demographic analysis suggests a site visit is worthwhile, be ready to walk and talk (and drive).

5. Drive the site

Is the site accessible from both sides of the road? Can I access the site from both directions? Is left turn possible?

6. Traffic

Is traffic going the right way during busy hours?  Coffee needs big traffic going to work, take away needs big traffic coming home from work.

7. Can I see the site from the road?

Drive-bys will be a part of your customer base.  Customers will get in the car and drive to find a place to eat and drink.  Great roadside visibility will dramatically increase this patronage.

8. Is there good signage and entrance direction?

GPS can take a potential client close, but not close enough to get in the front door.  There is nothing more frustrating than getting that: You have arrived on your GPS and the place is nowhere to be found.  Ideally, we will have great signage at the roadside, monument signage as we progress to the site, and finally, get a great big lighted brand sign on the front of the unit.

9. Walk the site

Is it clean? Any signs of graffiti? Decay? Potential liability issues? Potholes in the parking lot? Are dumpsters in the correct position? Does it smell? Nobody wants to eat next door to a fertilizer factory.

10. Is the front door facing the street?

You can’t get in if you cannot find the entrance. Sounds silly, but sites will have doors on the sides of the building, not the front.

11. Does the front of the building have lots of glass?

Potential patrons want to look inside. Is it clean? Are there other customers inside?  Is it warm and inviting?   Make sure your glass has lots of sunlight.  We want an overhang, but we don’t want to be too far inside the roofline so that we limit our visibility.  The exception to this is if we can have year-round outside seating.

12. Parking

Make sure you have 2.3 parking spots per table. Meet me at the restaurant: 3 friends - three cars - all need parking.

13. Left-hand turn

Make sure the is an easy entrance.  Taking a u-turn or trying to cross two lanes is challenging.  Look for traffic lights to assist entrance.


When it comes to site selection it’s the franchisor's responsibility to know these simple rules. Otherwise, a commission-hungry leasing broker or greedy building will convince you of a poor site selection.  For more information on how to choose the right location for your franchised business, contact us.

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