How Restaurant Industry Feeds Economic Development
It’s no secret that business is booming in Pooler, one of the fastest-growing cities in the state. According to SEDA, Pooler experienced a population growth of more than 200 percent from 2000 to 2010, while its labor force rose by 201 percent and total housing units increased by 241 percent.
All of those extra rooftops translate into retail and commercial development. For example, when Tanger Outlets Savannah opened in 2015, it did so with 95 percent of its space already leased. And since then, commercial space has continued to explode. The Crossings at Godley Station, an approximately 42,000 sq. ft. new retail development set to break ground this summer will offer a higher-end, best-in-class combination of national and local retailers. Mosaic Town Center, a 130-acre project near the intersection of Pooler Parkway and I-16, will include hotels, offices, shops, lofts, an amphitheater and a lakefront promenade; and, just this month, Foram Group announced plans for Lakeside Village, an expansive, mixed-use community development that will feature a luxury apartment community.
Of everything that can be located within a commercial development, one of the most overlooked but steady and sure economic development engines is the restaurant. In fact, a healthy, thriving restaurant industry is critically important to city planning, neighborhood development, and real estate.
According to a series of articles published by the Boston Globe in 2014, “Restaurants today lie at the heart of 21st-century American life. These employers aren’t headed overseas; for the foreseeable future, millions of Americans will wait tables, cook food, or wash dishes for their livelihoods.”
There are three primary reasons why restaurants maintain an important place in shaping the economy and makeup of our cities: urbanization, digitization, and globalization.
Urbanization. Today, 82 percent of Americans live in cities, double what it was 100 years ago. People move to cities for a variety of reasons, but mainly they move to seek out employment opportunities, to follow friends and family, and because they crave the human interaction lacking in a rural environment. As a result, people are dining outside the home more and more, and restaurants stand in as familial kitchens and dining rooms.
Digitization. There is no doubt about it; we are a digitally-saturated culture. According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, 94 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds use YouTube, 78 percent use Snapchat, 71 percent use Instagram, and half are Twitter users. Roughly two-thirds of American adults are Facebook users. With all of that social media use, however, people still crave a social experience that only restaurants can provide. Unlike other industries, restaurants have not been as disrupted by the digital revolution.
Globalization. While most industries no longer build and sell in the same geographic location, the same does not apply for 95 percent of restaurant operations. Restaurant employers are not headed overseas to outsource serving food. According to the National Restaurant Association, the restaurant industry employs 10 percent of the entire American workforce and estimates 15 million people will work in the industry by the year 2024.
Whereas food and beverage tenants comprised 5 to 10 percent of retail centers a decade ago, that number is projected to eventually grow to 25 to 30 percent. Restaurants, the social center of so many of our personal and professional celebrations, can change the entire character of a neighborhood or property. Since restaurants create a draw for people to come and can spark more life for a shopping center, it is imperative for developments to sign the right restaurants.