Maybe it’s always been this crazy, or maybe it is the current boom that makes it feel this way, but when we topped $230,000 at the end of last year and started looking for spaces, only then did I truly appreciate how byzantine and diverse San Francisco and the broader surrounds are. After living here for more than 7 years, all that time exploring neighborhoods and beginning to feel like a local, I realize that I had only scratched the surface of its intricacies. What I’m trying to say is that it is crazy to look for a restaurant space in the Bay Area right now. This post is just about looking for a neighborhood that needs us and that we can afford. It is merely the preliminary peek through the first layer of the jungle that is The Search.
First, there is the neighborhood. Given that the Mission is saturated with restaurants and Mission Cheese is already there, we need a new locale. So we’re looking for a hood where residents want the type of food and drink that Maker’s Common will serve. Is there a need for a place like us, which serves casual-but-not-cheap fare with Alpine roots and a New American twist? Or is it already over-served? Does a neighborhood want cozy, not-fast food, or are its inhabitants more interested in grab-n-go salads or dim sum?
Is a neighborhood upcoming and “hot” enough without being past its peak? Neighborhoods that have already hit their full commercial stride tend to have very expensive rents, so you can’t get in too late, as any real estate aficionado knows. So here’s the inventory in a very small nutshell:
- Hayes Valley has rents upwards of $10 per square foot per month (whaaaa?). Good luck tenants!
- The Mission is currently peaking, with rents in the $6-9 per square foot per month (e.g. rent for Mission Cheese is about to go up 28%…ouuuch). Bye bye $7 burrito, hello leather backpack.
- Noe Valley is on par with the Mission, and you have to budget space for stroller and dog parking.
- Divisadero is emanating a lovely feel, like a mashup of Portland and New York, and we would love to be there. It was a good deal a year and a half ago, but has now pushed past that good deal phase, and our little market would have to compete with Bi-Rite.
- The Marina was hot 10 years ago but feels a bit tired now, and we probably won’t make quite enough salads.
- SOMA is an attractive but unruly beast, where it is so big and diverse that it’s hard to tell where a good spot for us would be. Don’t rule it out, but don’t rule it in either.
- Cole Valley is awesome but there are no spaces there.
- FiDi is not neighborhoody enough for us.
- There is possibility in North Beach, and it’s a nice blend of old cool and new cool, if we could find the right spot at the right price. It would force us to refine our meatballs.
- The Outer Sunset, Inner Richmond, Dogpatch, and Bayview are picking up, but are there enough good food eaters to float our boat?
- Downtown Oakland is popping big time, but still feels sort of spread out and dependent on Alt-J showing up at the Fox.
- Downtown Berkeley is turning a corner on urbanization, and lean on options beyond the pizza slice, but are there enough working professionals? Lord knows I couldn’t afford a $20 lunch when I was in college!
- Marin is very attractive in that it is closer to the actual food and drink maker communities, but we don’t know it as well, and is it dense enough?
As you can see, when the Bay Area is your oyster, it is hard to choose the corner that will house your pearl for 7-10 years. This choice feels even more important given that it will become reality with hard earned funds from our 100+ Founders. It is super duper important to ensure that the place we choose has bang for the buck so those investments are safe and sound!
Do you have thoughts on where we should be? If you see a 1500-2000ft2 space for lease in a cool neighborhood, take a picture, post it, and tag us!