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Thread summary:

Banquet center or non-chain restaurant demand or need in Virginia, relocating family from New Jersey, options include Virginia Beach, Charlottesville, and Richmond, NJ commute and cost of living rates

 
Old 03-10-2007, 07:12 PM
 
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Hello,
Anyone have any thoughts on what area in Virginia, a non chain restaurant/banquet center would do well. I am looking take my family out of NJ due to high cost of living. (10,000 year in property taxes!!). I am focusing on areas for business growth first and from there I would like to find a suburb thats a 30 - 40 minute drive with good high schools, low crime and family recreational activities. I am leaning towards Virginia Beach, Charlottesville, Richmond and open to any other suggestions. Nova would be nice due to the shorter commute back to NJ to visit family but it seems to be expensive and congested. Any suggestions are greatly appreciated.
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Old 03-11-2007, 07:14 AM
 
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I would think you need a ;arge population base and year around clients. Williamsburg describes the community you want to live in - not sure if the business would be a go, we have so many chain restaurants and a few independents. People have less options for banquets, but there does seem to be enough.

Maybe Richmond?

I would investigate this a lot through professional associations, SCORE, etc. I doubt enough people on this forum have small business expertise specializing in this to be much help. I'm sure you know the success rate for restaurants is not great - I hope this works for you.
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Old 03-12-2007, 09:10 AM
 
Location: Apex, NC
1,341 posts, read 5,632,907 times
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Look at population growth statistics in order to determine opportunities. Most of the urban areas you're thinking of are growing less and less lately, so without substantial investment in marketing and reserves to get you through the early years you'll be hard pressed to succeed. I'd look more closely at areas on the outlying metro areas of Richmond, Charlottesville and Roanoke.

Roanoke does not generate the buzz of a Richmond or a Charlottesville but there are great opportunities here. For example, Panera Bread opened it's first location in Roanoke last fall and had it's largest opening weekend ever. To this day the place is mobbed daily. It's my observation that restaurants do well in the Roanoke Valley, particularly those that are family oriented or are more upscale.

I'd definitely add it to your short list and if you have specific questions about access to good schools, family activities I can answer them here or in a PM. I live in Boones Mill, in Franklin Couny, just south of Roanoke County. We're in the Roanoke MSA. I'm not a restauranteur, but an internet entrepreneur and have a horse farm here.

Sean
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Old 03-13-2007, 02:22 PM
 
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Thanks for the reply.
What areas outside of these metro has seen the most growth or projected to grow. I would like to be in an area that is going to be developed in the next 5 -10 years or the next boomtown. US Censuses reports that King George County is the 9th fastest growing county. Maybe towns west of Short Pump, or Chesapeake, or outside Williamsburg I know the success rate of restaurant industry is low, but we have a good concept that will work in the right location, if I knew Virginia little better it would be easier. I Plan on making a few trips in the coming months and spend the weekends in different areas. Thanks for your replies
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Old 03-13-2007, 05:44 PM
 
25 posts, read 140,863 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by M5group View Post
Thanks for the reply.
What areas outside of these metro has seen the most growth or projected to grow. I would like to be in an area that is going to be developed in the next 5 -10 years or the next boomtown. US Censuses reports that King George County is the 9th fastest growing county. Maybe towns west of Short Pump, or Chesapeake, or outside Williamsburg I know the success rate of restaurant industry is low, but we have a good concept that will work in the right location, if I knew Virginia little better it would be easier. I Plan on making a few trips in the coming months and spend the weekends in different areas. Thanks for your replies
M5, you might want to look beyond the basic percentage of population change for growth when you run your numbers. King George County might be have a 22.8% increase in population, but the population is only 20,600 as of the 2005 Census. Hardly enough people to support your business endeavor. I believe that you need not only growth areas but areas with the population to support your business and make it profitable.

Two Virginia Counties that are high on the list of increased business and residential development with their planned growth include:

Prince William County with a population of 348,588 (growth change from 2000-2005 is 24.1%).

Loudoun County with a population of 255,518 and a 50.7% increase in growth from 2000-2005.

I would caution you against those areas with negative growth like Roanoke City (the population has decreased by -2.4% in the past few years). And Roanoke City doesn't have a large population anyway (92,641). Roanoke City also has a below poverty rate of 16.9%.... not too good for conducting a banquet business.

Here are a few URLs I've gathered up for folks who want actual data:

US Census where you can get population, racial diversity, employment, poverty levels, median income, etc.:
http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/51/51067.html

Go here for Virginia SOLs and public education system

http://www.pen.k12.va.us/VDOE/src/index.shtml

To check actual schools and see their 'report card', go to:

https://p1pe.doe.virginia.gov/reportcard

You can get detailed stats for each county by checking the counties that interest you.
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Old 03-14-2007, 04:22 AM
 
Location: Apex, NC
1,341 posts, read 5,632,907 times
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Note that I didn't recommend Roanoke City, but the Roanoke metro area. The Roanoke metro area has a population of > 230,000 people. In any event, restaurants do exceptionally well in Roanoke because it is an underserved market in many respects. Like I said, Panera Bread opened up in Roanoke and that store gave Panera their BIGGEST opening weekend ever. I neglected to mention that Panera has 58 Virginia locations including many in Northern Virginia where the population is MUCH higher and denser than it is in our small metro area. In fact, here is a quote from Adam Jackson, the Dir. of Finance and Development for Panera Bread:

"Even before the founding of our Panera Bread Franchise in October of 2004, we have always considered the City and County of Roanoke to be among the front-runners in potential markets to open Panera Bread Bakery Cafes. Due to the size, excellent demographics, and the community culture we feel we have hit a 'home-run' in the Roanoke area and expect to see continued high profitability and growth in the market. When preparing to open our first location on Electric Road in Roanoke County we were thrilled by the extremely warm reception from our soon to be customers, but also by the gracious welcome and support we received from all local officials from both the Roanoke County and the City of Roanoke. Our high expectations were not only met when we opened our first location, but exceeded in terms of sales volume and customer receptiveness. So much, in fact, that we are planning an early June opening of a second location in the City of Roanoke near the newly renovated Valley View Mall. This opening will make Roanoke only our second multiple location market in a territory that covers the entire western portion of Virginia as well as the West Virginia Panhandle. We are very pleased and grateful to be a part of the Roanoke Community and look forward to experiencing continued success here for years to come. "

Cheers,

Sean
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Old 03-14-2007, 06:42 AM
 
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Currently Loudoun County is the fastest growing county in the nation... For total population and growth you really can't beat Northern Virginia statistically.... I personally can't stand the hustle and bustle of the DC Metro area, but that's my own personal feeling.

As for an area that's going to grow a lot in the near future I'd look toward Winchester maybe??? Simply because there is a LOT of serious discussion about federal agencies relocating away from the potential nuclear blast zone of a strike on D.C. (yes, a little frightening that they're thinking along these lines, but they are).... Winchester and the Northern Shenandoah Valley are the areas currently being talked about in this respect...
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Old 03-14-2007, 05:51 PM
 
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Thanks for the replies
I ruled out Loudon County due to their high residential and commercial prices and this area already exploded. Prince William County is a hot growth area and is on my short list but which towns in PW county or the surrounding areas. Population
is what we need for business but not to live in, so a short commute is fine (under 40 minutes). Winchester was also on my short list. Interesting point on the bombing of Washington. Are there many restaurant/banquet center in that town? Where do people host their events and do they have the expendable income. Does Roanoke Metro have a High income or are they mostly retirees living around the main attraction a beautiful lake.
My wife loves Smith Mountain Lake and we always wanted a home on a lake.
Is the population year round or vacation homes. How are the schools?
But any area that I would choose should have a good corporate presence, perhaps a university, hospital, airports and close to major interstate highways.
Thanks Again Michael
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Old 03-14-2007, 08:00 PM
 
Location: Apex, NC
1,341 posts, read 5,632,907 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by M5group View Post
Does Roanoke Metro have a High income or are they mostly retirees living around the main attraction a beautiful lake.
My wife loves Smith Mountain Lake and we always wanted a home on a lake.
Is the population year round or vacation homes. How are the schools?
But any area that I would choose should have a good corporate presence, perhaps a university, hospital, airports and close to major interstate highways.
Hi again Michael, I'll address just the Roanoke and SML questions.

I believe the lake population is primarily year round, but there are indeed vacation and weekend homes. If you were to tour the lake, you'd see a substantial amount of new retail, food service and professional businesses sprouting up in answer to the growing demand of full-timers. I've got quite alot of friends who live full-time on the lake and they all seem to love it. Of course the tourist population during the summer is very high, especially during the four national fishing tourneys, and of course there are ALOT of golf courses established or under development. I was last at SML when we were doing a mortgage re-fi of our own house and on a Thursday afternoon in January it was pretty vibrant. There were even more storefronts constructed than when I visited last October. You know you're in a gentrified lake community when the building supply store has a wood moulded brick facade! I'm not interested in living on the lake but it's fun to watch, I enjoy change as long as it's generally positive, and from an environmental standpoint the developers are doing right by mother nature, all things considered.

The Franklin County schools are very good. A fellow member of my area virginia master naturalist chapter is a teacher at Boones Mill elementary. She has spoken well of the strong positive community vibe among the teaching staff which, being married to a former teacher, I know is a very good sign. Boones Mill is particularly good although all elementary schools in Franklin County are doing pretty well. One thing to keep in mind is that there is (so far) only one large high school for the entire county. It's a nice high school with good performance just keep that in mind with regard to a school commute from the lake (which would vary from 15 to 45 minutes depending on where on the lake one would live). As for us, we opted to send both our young girls (ages 4 and 7) to North Cross, a JK-12 private school in Roanoke. Not because we didn't like the public schools available; just because the tuition was < $9,000 a year (it has very strong alumnae support which helps mitigate tuition significantly) and 100% of North Cross students attend college. Basically every senior this year applying for early acceptance to their college of choice was accepted (four for UVA, several others for Virginia Tech, William & Mary, and so on and so forth). It's a really good school with really well grounded and supportive parents. Anyway, if North Cross doesn't pan out for one or both of our girls, it's nice to know there is a solid public school system to fall back on.

As for Roanoke itself, the general trend is to buy in Roanoke County, where the school report cards are markedly higher. The incomes are higher in Roanoke County also, judging by the census, which you can look up (a simple method is to search for "roanoke county quickfacts" on google to shortcut you to the census quickfacts page for the county). Roanoke County high schools lean smaller and more distributed which many find appealing.

The lake population itself is guestimated by some in the media at around $60,000 median household income although I tend to think it's moving higher. There was an established population of around 18,000 on the lake prior to it being discovered but I'm guessing most of the new residents are pushing beyond $90,000. Again, that's just an educated guess.

Also two things worth noting if I understand your market a little is that the I-73 route has basically been set by VDOT and it will be following Route 220S, then heading east on Crowell Gap Rd, and then following Route 116 south through Rocky Mount and continuing south to Martinsville where it will rejoin Route 220. While construction isn't set to begin this year, it's a safe bet that construction will begin within a few years and when complete I-73 will really be a catalyst for growth because it will shrink the travel time between Roanoke and the Lake, and of course it will also open up rural eastern areas of Franklin County to new developments. If you're driving through Rocky Mount on Route 40, just before the Route 122 fork you'll see a Super Wal-Mart, a new Lowes, and several shopping centers. All basically due to SML and what I think is largely preparation for I-73, which will - coincidentally of course - be cutting right by those new bix boxes.

Roanoke, as far as a corporate presence is concerned, isn't too shabby. The headquarters for Advance Auto Parts is in Roanoke, and Carilion Healthcare is also. Other notable companies with a large corporate presence in Roanoke include Norfolk Southern (who has a massive railyard and corporate offices) will be building a 160 million dollar intermodal railway somewhere in the valley, probably in Elliston), Wachovia, Chemsolv, FreightCar America, ITT Industries, Koyo Steering Systems, etc. Carilion is right in the middle of building a 28 acre bio-medical park and hiring about 192 more specialists. Their stated goal is to invest another 128 million during a transformation to a physician-centric operation instead of a hospital-centric business. They want to become the Mayo Clinic of the Mid-Atlantic, or so they've said. So far they seem to be on the right track. They're also founding, in partnership with the state and with Virginia Tech, a medical college in Roanoke that will graduate 65 specialists a year to start with. There is one hospital in Rocky Mount, and at least two in Roanoke/Salem along with a huge number of specialized medical centers that deal with specialized needs and many are owned by Carilion.

Roanoke has a regional airport which is not a hub but there are direct flights to most major hubs including a new dirt cheap route to Orlando. Roanoke has I-81 crossing E/W through it and I-581 cuts south into North Carolina, turning into Route 220 just south of Roanoke. Route 220 is all 4 lane with a good bit of limited access stretches. Again, I-581 and Route 220 will essentially transform into I-73 in the not too distant future.

I hope this helps. I tend to type in a stream of consciousness format so all this stuff spills out at about 70wpm so if I didn't communicate clearly enough then let me know and if you have other questions I can try to answer those also. I get the impression you're a fellow entrepreneurial spirit so I threw a little more speculation and loosely related info at you than I normally would, because as you know the best ROI aren't always in the obvious places where competition is much higher. It's the little things that add up to the big picture, if you gather my meaning.

Sean
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Old 04-07-2007, 12:06 PM
 
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Hi Lynn, Thanks for the info. Sorry I didn't get back to you earlier but I was in Va. looking at different areas.
I started in Va beach then to Williamsburg and then to Richmond. I spent a couple of days in each area, one day with a broker and 1 day on own, (total of 3 different brokers). All areas have their pros and cons as you know. I plan to come back down in two weeks and do another tour of Charlottesville and Winchester
Perhaps I will take Skyline Drive for the scenery.
I have basically narrowed my choices to these 5 areas.
I am also working with other restaurant consulting groups to assist me in my efforts. As one person posted this forum is not the best place to post a question such as this but what I was looking for were responses just like yours. Perhaps the hotels are to expensive or not scenic enough for a photo session or
accommodation are to small. What ever the reason is the question was aimed at families with children or young professionals searching for a place to cater a shower, rehearsal dinner, baptism, weddings, corporate meetings, etc. Here in NJ most of the catered affairs are held at catering halls and not hotels.

I little bit about myself - I was born in the business and have been successful. I have 3 children, the oldest will be attending George Mason on a partial scholarship this fall and the two youngest are in middle school. A few reasons for the move to Va.
are that being a resident of VA for 1 year you will get in state tuition rates, which would save me approx 15,000 a year. Another reason is that the political landscape is so corrupt in NJ, I really have had it! I am sure that is corruption everywhere, but I not like NJ. Another reason is Taxes and more taxes and more laws and statutes that you can imagine. (a senator here is trying to pass a law to ban wearing music playing devices while riding your bike). When you live in the most densely populated state in the nation there has to be ways to control crime, accidents, sprawl etc so more laws are introduced, more restrictions are put on your personal life and business ventures. I could go on, but Winchester is on my list
and will be down to check it out. How are the High Schools, from what I read they sound very good.
One of the criterion for searching for a location is that
it must have high schools in the top 1000 in the nation according to Jay Mathews challenge index. I am willing to commute up to 40 minutes. The response you provided is exactly the response I was looking for.
What is the name of the town just outside of Winchester you talking about, I would definitely research this area some more. One advantage Winchester has is the shorter commute to visit family back in NJ Thanks for your advice
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