As we ponder our choices of locations for Mozzeria, we need to analyze what it would take to succeed in the location. Should our restaurant be in a residential area, or in an area frequented by tourists?
Being in a Residential Neighborhood
With 113 neighborhoods in San Francisco – see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki Neighborhoods_in_San_Francisco - you would think there are plenty of choices for making a home base for Mozzeria. San Francisco locals are known for radical thinking and declare their love and huge support for local clothing stores, restaurants and coffee houses. In fact some neighborhoods even do not allow Starbucks to operate because these giant corporations hurt local businesses. Besides that, locals like the idea of spending money on local businesses and also knowing that their hard-earned money stays in San Francisco, and not going to Seattle (where Starbucks headquarters is located). Their fierce loyalty lies with the “local business” concept, which is great for neighborhood restaurants. That is where we get loyal customers.
Or should we be in a Tourist Neighborhood?
Tourism is San Francisco's No. 1 revenue-generating industry. San Francisco attracted 15.9 million visitors in 2010. Wow, that is a lot. I would love to feed Neapolitan pizza to these 15.9 million visitors. :) Sure, the number looks very attractive if you do open a restaurant in a tourist site. You would, however, have to spend a lot of money on marketing because there would also be other restaurants in these tourist areas competing for visitors. This may be a cut throat business, but there are some upsides.
You will not only attract the tourists, but also shoppers especially if your restaurant is in a location like Union Square. These shoppers could also include locals. During the holiday season, many locals flock to Union Square to do their holiday shopping because it is easy for them to browse from store to store within walking distance. In these such settings, you have 3 kinds of potential customers: tourists, shoppers, and locals.
In conclusion, it is very hard to be picky with locations because not all restaurants are alike and you would have to fight hard when more than one prospective buyer is interested in a specific location, leading to a bidding war. You have to be absolutely open-minded, and also keep an eye on all issues related to that particular location.
In the last few months of scouting locations, I don't really have the luxury of selecting the location because of timing and money. I am inclined, right now, towards locations that are close to tourist areas with a good number of long-term residents because of convenient transportation available in the locality i.e. MUNI Bus/Light Rail and BART for East Bay folks.