Working knowledge What a restaurant real estate broker thinks you should know

Jeff Yurfest, a restaurant realtor with the Shopping Center Group, connects restaurant concepts with physical spaces.

Jeff Yurfest is a commercial real estate broker in the Charleston office of The Shopping Center Group, a national company that specializes in retail. Yurfest works with local and national restaurateurs looking for space, as well as landlords seeking the right restaurant tenants for their shopping centers. Here’s what Yurfest has learned about restaurant location, location, location:

In many instances, restaurant owners can overcome problems associated with the wrong address. Yurfest has seen many restaurants in supposedly cursed locations fail because of “operator error,” which could refer to anything from mismanaging money to serving lousy food. But if a venue is situated in a quiet, inaccessible area without parking, it’s hard for even the best restaurateur to make a successful go of it.

When Yurfest’s clients are choosing between two spaces, they’re often drawn to whichever one is cheapest. “But if you break down rent by day, or by week, it sometimes makes sense to take the one that’s $1,000 more a month,” Yurfest says, pointing out that the more expensive location could potentially generate an additional $33 in daily profit, perhaps because it’s situated in an area where competition is sparse, or because the building looks more attractive to potential guests. “Restaurateurs are sometimes too price-conscious on rent.”

Yurfest got his start in the restaurant real estate business soon after he returned to Charleston from a Peace Corps assignment in South America. He noticed that Mexican restaurants here far outnumbered McDonald’s, so he put his language skills to work securing spaces for Spanish speakers. Before long, he was also working with Chinese immigrants, some of whom found ideal setups in retired fast-food restaurants. “You see a lot of Asian restaurants will backfill a KFC or a Burger King because they’re going after the same demographic,” Yurfest says. That said, Chinese restaurant owners sometimes have other concerns about the site they select. “Honestly, I’ll tell you I’ve had Chinese restaurants walk away from the closing table because a water tower was on the wrong side of the road.”

Hanna Raskin