It seems a counterintuitive move to distance your business from the high foot traffic and centrally located spaces within a city or town. However, with a unique offering and strategic suburban location, food and beverage operators appear to be thriving.
More and more food and beverage businesses are seeking to set up shop in the suburbs surrounding already thriving centres. From a purely commercial point of view, a suburban location presents significant savings in rent, a more generously-sized shop space and better parking.
Andrew Fearnside, owner of Wild Wheat, operates an artisan baked goods business with outlets in Howick, Milford, and Three Kings. He says rents are more reasonable in these parts of town and the exposure is great with the premises being on busy roads in reasonably affluent areas.
Simon Wilson said in a 2014 Metro article that opening of L’Oeuf may seem like a piece of Ponsonby that has been stranded in suburbia, but that in fact it was a sure sign that a mixed and engaging community culture is developing in the area.
The strength of a community was reinforced for the owners of L’Oeuf who have since opened two more eateries, both in suburban blocks of shops in Auckland.
“For those who are lucky enough to have a fantastic café within walking distance of their home, the experience is even more appealing. These days people appreciate being able to walk to the retailers and services they’re looking for. So if a great café pops up in their suburb, which they visit without having to think about parking, so much the better,” says JLL retail specialist JJ Hong.
As well as winning over the discerning residents of the area, retail and hospitality operators have to create an experience that is indeed worth travelling for.
“Customers are happy to travel to other suburbs to visit new retailers – so long as they believe the experience is going to be good,” Hong says. People enjoy the sense of discovery they get from visiting a café, bar, or retailer that’s offering something new or different.
Also from JLL, Pritesh Ishvarlal said that what these businesses are doing is very popular, “You drive past on the weekend and you’ll see groups of people happily standing on the street waiting for a table.”
It’s the unique and refreshing experience that has attracted consumers to these businesses after they gravitated towards previously less popular areas. And there are clear benefits to becoming part of the fabric of the neighbourhood – you become their local and from that comes loyalty.