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Sep 15, 2012 09:06 PM

Why are so many restaurants opening in San Diego?

So asks the Union Tribuine in this article:

Money quote from the article:


Theories abound as to why there seems to be a growing mania for opening a restaurant, even during an economic recovery that continues to stumble. Rents, say some experts, have yet to bounce back from pre-recession highs, diners are looking for affordably priced, neighborhood-friendly spots to congregate, and more restaurant-ready spaces are becoming available as concepts fail or longtime operators retire.

Experienced restaurateurs, however, are quick to point out that in many cases, landlords are getting choosier about who they’ll rent to, and diners are becoming more selective about where they spend their hard-earned dollars.


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  1. Interesting, but bad journalism (who knew from the UT?). We're seeing more restaurants open from groups who can afford it, but for investors wanting to do smaller concepts and smaller groups what we're seeing are completely unfriendly landlords who want egregious terms. I know because I was prepared to take a few spaces to do a concept here and decided ultimately to look in other cities to do it (I'm being deliberately vague here). We couldn't get lease terms here that could allow single location restaurants to make it and be in highly desirable locations. The landlords were just totally unreasonable. We ended up having to look in other markets (Chicago, SF, NY, etc.) where the landlords were far more willing to work with us on the financials.

    2 Replies
    1. Speaking of new places opened by big groups...

      The Gascramp Quarter continues to spiral into a fraternity row vortex. The Lincoln Room is now The Commons Bar, which I am told, has "excellent wings." Oh good, because we need more wings.

      I have not personally seen the empty space but I heard The Fleetwood went under, to be replaced by a Bubs-Lucky's-esque place. Again, why? There are ten identical concepts in the same area already.

      These seem to be the only places that open and stay in business; big, loud, annoying, and catering solely to the "likewhateverOMG" crowd. The places I mentioned are in high profile areas, and were probably opened by groups that have a decent chunk of money for high dollar space.

      Small, quality restaurants like Farmhouse and Cafe Chloe are entirely too few and far between. And you could be right, because they run a higher food cost, are probably not owned by a "group," and they are unable to afford high rents, quality mid-size restauranteurs look elsewhere. Added frustration: the quality of our local dining scene suffers miserably.

      I do agree with with ipsedixit on his last statement, "diners are becoming more selective about where they spend their hard-earned dollars." Husband and I have each taken substantial pay cuts in the last three years, so not only do we not dine out often, but we absolutely will not go to a place that has substandard food and service. (example- we are not going to Brooklyn Girl anytime soon, and Urban Solace is cut from our rotation).

      I think it's sad that smaller concepts are being brushed into oblivion. The small, quality, neighborhood eatery is an investment in long term economic health for a city. The people that dine at Cafe Chloe have most likely been dining there for years, and will continue to dine there in the future. CC is off the beaten party path and attracts a loyal local crowd AND tourists in need of pleasant experience, regardless if the Padres are in town. That "small" concept translates to a steady stream of revenue to an otherwise sleepy section of downtown San Diego. And they are jam packed! I am astounded that local landlords do not see the great potential of renting to a small group that will provide stable, long-term revenue that is not connected to a sporting event.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Dagney

        Also agree about diners being selective, thus Fleetwood a classic and unfortunately all too common in SD, bad food high priced place. Also agree that if you can't get a reasonable lease don't bother to be in the resto business. Lastly, if I were a landlord in any economy, I'd be very careful about what type of restaurant I'd lease to and make sure the owners were heavily backed with cash.

        1. re: Dagney

          Good essay. Don't know how I missed this in September.

        2. The original comment has been removed