Jillian Kramer | Food & Wine | March 15, 2018

“Match the restaurant to the location.”

We’ve all seen it happen: one day, there’s a brand-new restaurant around the corner that we can’t wait to try and the next day, that same restaurant is closed—for good.

Statistics paint a grim picture for anyone who dreams of opening a restaurant. In New York, for example, 80 percent of restaurants fail within five years. And regardless of their location, about 60 percent of restaurants close in the first year, one study shows.

Luckily, from those failures come lessons—and two restaurateurs, who now own successful spots, are here to share what they learned from their own shutterings.

“Match the restaurant to the location.”

When James Groetzinger, who owns Warehouse and Calhoun Street Tavern, opened Parlor Deluxe in 2015, “it was a little bit ahead of its time for the location,” he says. “The location was on a one-way street with no nearby parking lots, making it street parking only. It was also before a lot of construction was moving farther up town, so we weren’t getting a ton of foot traffic passing by.”

But since the restaurant closed in 2016, “the street has become a two-way,” Groetzinger says, “and they’ve built a huge parking deck a couple blocks over.” Had Groetzinger waited another year to launch the restaurant, he might have had better luck, a lesson in choosing the right location.

“Eliminate dress codes.”

Carl Sobocinski, owner of Table 301 Restaurant Group, believes today’s diner wants to dress casually—but two of his former restaurants, Restaurant O and Devereaux’s, had dress codes. “I never thought they were that strict but the patrons who were turned away did, and they were sure to tell their friends that we had a dress code,” he says. (The restaurants’ dress code included no shorts, no flip-flops and no baseball caps.)

“The [no shorts rule] was the biggest issue with patrons because we are in South Carolina where summer nights are humid and can reach temperatures in the 90s, even during dinner hours,” he says. Lesson learned: “We dropped the dress code after a few months, but the damage was already done.”