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Restaurant foot traffic data, trade areas and site selection

Restaurant foot traffic was slowly ticking-up going into 2022, but what’s the lingering damage versus the pre-COVID trend, and can those short term gains sustain a recession heading into 2023?

Location strategy in the United States restaurant industry

Restaurant foot traffic data

While the long term trend for restaurant foot traffic at the end of 2022 was down nationally, there was great disparity between the performance of different states. 22 states demonstrated positive long term growth rates. These states tend to be concentrated in the northeast, central and northwest.

Using foot traffic data combined with migration patterns data, we can study each state and look for data showing someplace a quick service restaurant is likely to draw restaurant visits. A customer profile of someone within a short walk time or drive time seems suitable. Maybe they are using a mobile app.

The food service industry is finicky. We want to be precise when selecting a new location. Let's start by identifying the states with the best opportunity.

Long term trends in restaurant trade areas

Between March 2020 and December 2021, 11 states experienced a foot traffic decline of at least 10%. DC was by far the hardest hit. New York was not far behind, with California, Nevada and Massachusetts rounding out the bottom five. 

Notably, much of the Great Lakes border region, including Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin and New York showed higher than average long term foot traffic loss. This was influenced by the ongoing restrictions at the Canadian border during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But there are bright spots. Where people are moving, there is growth. We know from the data that the areas around Miami, Cincinnati, St. Louis and San Antonio are growing. Let's probe these trade areas for possible site locations.

Restaurant site selection, real estate and economic development

As population density, foot traffic and trade areas go, so goes restaurant site selection. People moving to an area, new developments, parks and other public spaces, all draw more foot traffic and potential customers to an area.

Restaurant site selection

As a QSR, we want easy access off a busier road and/or a high density of foot traffic, perhaps as a result of locating in a mall, or shopping complex. Let's take a closer look at what the Cincinnati area has to offer.

Our key criteria for this exercise is to find competitive advantage based on our location decisions. We also need to consider the effects of a looming recession and challenges in the supply chain. Now let's find a neighborhood that looks promising.

Site selection in the Cincinnati trade area

In the first half of 2021, Cincinnati was growing quickly.

The downtown area, which features two stadiums and a large park developed on the riverfront, has been revived in the last year by the return of sports fans and office workers, as well as an influx of new residents.

The nearby border with Kentucky and a major roadway into downtown Cincinnati will help to feed QSR restaurant foot traffic to the south of the city. Somewhere along Main Street south of the Wade Clay Bailey Bridge seems like a good location.

There is a well-trafficked artery and a range of residential and shopping services in the area, indicating target access for both short drive time and walk time. There is also generally increasing foot traffic here.

The real estate is mostly storefront and a few busier corners. We'll need to study demographic profiles and reconcile them to the broader trade area to be certain, but this looks like a pretty good spot for our new quick service restaurant.

The site selection process is changing

Truly, it is recession-related uncertainty as to foot traffic heading into autumn of 2022 that makes the long term so difficult to predict for the restaurant industry.

The QSR sector seems better equipped to absorb the blow as compared to a more formal dining experience. That said, all QSRs are not created equal.

Some have data centers and data scientists that know how to interpret restaurant foot traffic data. But not all. In either case they want fresh, quality data and perhaps some help gleaning insights from it. That's where Unacast comes in.

How to use our restaurant foot traffic data

Our restaurant foot traffic data helps you understand visitation by calculating:

  • Visitation Counts - Daily, Weekly, Monthly visit counts to venues.
  • Capture Rate & Area Visitation - Area foot traffic and percent visitation out of total area traffic.
  • Visitor Demographics - Income, educational attainment, age, gender, and race/ethnicity profiles of visitations to a venue.
  • Visitation Distributions - Venue visitation patterns by hour, day, hour & day, and median dwell time.
  • Trade Area - Distribution of distance from home and work to venue, and home/work origins of traffic.
  • Cross Visitation - Visitor visitation to top Venues, Brands, and Categories.

Want to know more? Schedule a meeting with one of our foot traffic experts. 

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