It all starts with community connection.

There could be various reasons to move your restaurant to a new location. For many, it’s a simple matter of economics. Rental rates may be going up in the area, or there could also be greater demand for your food in a different part of the city. Perhaps you’ve taken the plunge and bought a new property rather than sinking your capital into rent each month.

Whatever the impetus, it can be a difficult experience. A new environment can be an exciting prospect, but there’s also a certain element of uncertainty. After all, your first interactions in a fresh space with new customers can significantly influence your reputation and ongoing success. It’s worth taking the time to establish some positive activities during the move itself and in your opening months.

We’re going to lay down a few tips for moving your restaurant to a new location. What steps can you take that inform your successful trajectory?

Connect with the Community

The possibility of a new restaurant can be an exciting prospect for a community. This doesn’t necessarily mean it will be easy to win over new customers. There may be other local eateries that have already laid good groundwork you’ll be competing against. You may also not have the local connections to immediately endear your restaurant’s approach to smaller neighborhoods. As such, it’s vital to make early efforts to connect with your new community.

Start by learning about your new local demographic even before you move. There are various subtle elements that can affect community engagement with businesses. For instance, moving to a touristy area can mean there is greater cultural diversity and a thriving social scene. There will also tend to be more amenities and better accessibility for pet owners. Understanding these can give you insights into what the community expects from its business owners and how you can more positively interact with them from the outset.

Having this information should influence your early days and weeks. Be a visible contributor to causes and initiatives the community cares about. There may be sustainability and social projects you can be a part of. If there’s a local festival, set up a stall or give out free samples. Most importantly, just start talking to community members and other local business owners. Show them you want to be a positive part of their neighborhood.

Engage Your Current Customers

You’ve likely spent previous years dedicating time and capital to building a loyal customer base for your restaurant. Whether you’ve chosen to move or the decision has been made for you, the last thing you want is to discard these patrons. Even if they need to drive a little further to reach you or can recommend you to local friends, you must make efforts to keep your current customers engaged.

Again, this should start before you move. Make it clear that you appreciated their time over the years and invite them to still be a part of your family. Provide them with discount coupons for your new place or offer complimentary appetizers.

It can also be a positive move to host an event designed to celebrate your current customers and attract new ones. An outdoor party on a pleasant evening can help you get to know your new neighbors and introduce your loyal patrons to new menu recipes. Arrange your inside and outside spaces to make sure they’re accessible to everyone and encourage festive mingling. This helps everyone feel equally welcome in your new space and helps to drive a sense of excitement about what you have to offer.

Consider Relevant Upgrades

Don’t just think of your location move as a necessity. It’s also an opportunity to make improvements. In many ways, it’s easy to get stuck into routines that aren’t really serving you well, particularly if you’ve been running your restaurant from the same place for years. Think of your move as an excuse to freshen up.

This could begin with some rebranding. You don’t have to completely change here. After all, this could alienate your current consumers. Nevertheless, look at getting some new signage that has a more contemporary feel but still represents the style of your eatery. Adopt a different color scheme for your walls and soft furnishings that more authentically create the type of atmosphere you feel was missing from your last space. 

The move can also be a chance to commit more to sustainability. Your restaurant has a lot of equipment and utilizes significant resources in its operation. Not only is it an ethical duty to reduce negative environmental impact, but customers are increasingly making purchasing decisions based on green standards. One recent study found that 48 percent of customers would pay more for sustainable takeout options.

As such, it’s worth reviewing where you can upgrade your restaurant to be more environmentally friendly. Energy-efficient equipment and lighting are more accessible than ever. Smart thermostat devices can automatically adjust your heating and cooling to reduce consumption. Even growing some of your own produce minimizes your reliance on less sustainable industrial suppliers. You’ll also find these methods can save your business money in the long run.

Moving to a new restaurant location can be both an exciting opportunity and a daunting prospect. Whatever your reasons for the shift, it’s worth planning to ensure you have the best experience. Commit to making meaningful connections in your new community. At the same time, make sure your current customers still feel welcome in your fresh space. A few upgrades to your branding and sustainability can ensure your restaurant has a more positive impact on everyone. It might feel like a lot of work on top of the stress of moving. Nevertheless, these elements can ease your transition and help get your new location started on solid footing.

Jori Hamilton is an experienced writer from the Northwestern U.S. She covers a wide range of topics and, because she spent over six years in the restaurant business before writing full-time, takes a particular interest in covering topics related to the food and beverage industry. To learn more about Jori, you can follow her on Twitter.

Expert Takes, Feature