Why are some restaurant locations "cursed"?

What is it about certain locations that can’t seem to sustain a sucessful restaurant? Is is traffic patterns? A succession of inept/unlucky entrepreneurs? Maybe the place is built over an ancient burial site?

There is a cluster of four fast-food locations just around the corner from me. Three of them have been in business it seems like forever; a Chinese place, a Subway, and a [Der] Wienerschnitzel. The last one, though…

In the last 6 years, it has been in and out of business 5 times and sat vacant for almost a year. Originally it was Taco Bell-- then the owner of the Chinese place next door turned it into “The Flaming Grill Taqueria”. Their food was decent enough, but went downhill rapidly as they cut corners on both quantity and quality.

Then it became “South Street BBQ”–the fare was mediocre at best–and it lasted about 9 months. Then it was “Just Like Ya Mama’s Soul Food”, which was pretty awful–they went bust in less than 6 months. Now it’s getting ready to re-open as an Indian place.

I don’t think it will last either, because the building is obviously cursed.

A lot of times, it is traffic patterns…though, in your example, with four stores clustered, that seems less likely (though, the “cursed” spot may be in a spot which is harder to get to).

Even franchised chains which are generally successful can easily go under if the franchisee (or his management team) is incompetent.

It sounds like the restaurants which have followed Taco Bell into that location have all been little local places, as opposed to chains. IME, many people are less likely to give an unknown fast-food place a try, when there’s a recognizable brand-name place nearby (and, in this case, you have a Subway and a Wienerschnitzel right there).

The fact that the economy has been in the tank for the past two years, and restaurant business, in general, hasn’t been doing well, can’t help.

We have one like that here. VERY modern, upscale look that does not fit the area(white marble/black glass). I’ve lost track of the cuisines/owners that have cycled through the place. Latest attempt is offering WiFi Internet.

Google Maps/ Street View.

Apart from the Taco Bell, all those places are primarily sit down rather than take out restaurants. That’s tough to do if there’s no other reason for people to be there.

Anthony Bourdain discusses this in his book Kitchen Confidential. For one thing, opening a restaurant is one of the riskiest, most expensive things you could ever do. Something like 80% of all restaurants fail. The reasons are many. Bad food, bad management, bad staff, bad service, or some combination of or all of the above. Owners and management, when they realize their business is failing, start doing desperate “quick fix” things like changing the menu, starting/stopping breakfast/lunch/dinner service, offering deep discounts, etc. These things never work, especially constantly changing the menu. The food is either good as it is, maybe needs some tweaking, but wholesale change is never going to help you develop a patron base. Watch “Kitchen Nightmares” and you’ll notice some or all of these things. Gordon Ramsay has the easiest job ever(on that show, at least); it really doesn’t take a genius to see what’s wrong with these places.

No insights but back in college there was a pizza place off campus on the main drag. It was at the far end of how far students generally wandered and kind of grungy and not long into my freshman year it closed.

Over the rest of my four years there I think it was six different pizza places occupied that spot. It was like each time a new prospective owner came in and said “hey, there’s a pizza oven in here I wonder why nobody’s ever tried selling pizza from this spot?”

I’ve seen a number of restaurant graveyards in my life (a Country Kitchen in Saskatoon and The Olde English Parlour in Waterloo spring to mind).

But the opposite can happen, too – the logic-defying ability of a location to support restaurants, rather than kill them. Near where I used to live in North York, there’s a string of restaurants including three sub shops right next to each other (from north to south, a Subway, a sushi joint, a Quizno’s and a Mr. Sub, I believe). All the sub joints have been there for several years. What strange demographical fluke exists to create a sub shop nexus like that?

I can think of three spots like this in our area. And as I think of it, each one is situated so you can’t just turn in to the parking lot from both directions. Obviously if the restaurant is on your right, you can just turn in, but if it’s on your left, you have to make a U turn to get to it. And now one of our favorite restaurants has moved into one of the cursed spots! But I suspect hey have enough momentum to break the curse.

Sometimes, too, a spot might be easy to get in or out of when you’re going one direction, but it’s on the wrong side of the road for the time of day. It might be a great breakfast location, but be on the wrong side of the road to stop by after work to eat in or pick up some takeout, for instance, or the other way around. If you have a lunch and dinner restaurant on the way in to where most people work, they aren’t likely to want to go there, eat or pick up dinner, and then fight traffic to make a left turn. This is especially critical when there’s a median in the way, and a commuter will have to make a right turn, go down the road half a mile, and then make a U turn.

If you have a breakfast place that’s on the right side of the road for people going to work, though, then you’re golden, especially if you’re a chain.

It’s also quite possible that all of the unsuccessful restaurants were vastly undercapitalized. I know that a lot of people think it’s pretty easy to open and run a restaurant, but it really isn’t.

We used to have one of those where I grew up - I swear it was a different restaurant every week. But then a Chinese place moved in and it’s been there for 15 years. Best Mongolian Beef anywhere.

There’s a spot like that in my neighborhood and I can be pretty sure it’s a traffic issue. The street is very busy at evening rush hour which ought to be the main time for any real business at whatever eating establishment tries to make it there.

The problem is that both sets of two-lane traffic are usually creep and crawl through at least three changes at the next major intersections. So anybody in traffic is thoroughly pissed by the time they get even with this spot. Outgoing lanes are the worst for the delays, but the incoming side has the issue of (if they wanted to do so) crossing the outgoing lanes to get into the lot for the eatery. Not many in those lanes are courteous enough to risk another light change just to accommodate somebody wanting to cut across.

Nobody has the patience, regardless of the food quality, which has been great through at least four changes of hands in as many years, to fight the traffic problems. So eventually the owners get the picture and move on. All I can figure is that the realtor who manages to foist this place off on the next owner talks some fine shit and downplays the traffic issue. And prospective owners are either not doing any homework or scouting or they misread the seriousness of the traffic.

Some places just don’t consider that a lot of traffic can be more of a curse than a delight.

There’s also a place with no major traffic issues, but a murder there seems to have affected business. People tend to remember murders in restaurants for some reason.

Shitty service will spoil even the best location, though. That and bad health department ratings.

One Chinese place in a strip mall near here burnt the Cashew Chicken so bad I haven’t even been back there. So, impatient and unforgiving customers (like me) can ruin a place, too.

(Bolding by Spiff.)

But the answer, times three, is in your OP.

The restaurants closed because they served crappy food, no cursed building necessary.

Yes, mediocre food could certainly account for the lack of success. BUT…the place right next door has THE WORST Chinese food in the world. Their “Chinese” food is an order of magnitude worse than anything that The Flaming Grill, the BBQ or the Soul Food place ever served. Yet, they have a steady stream of customers, day after day.

I suppose that brings up the question, how does a place with terrible food stay in business for so long?

There’s a Chinese Buffet round the corner from me. Here’s part of a review I posted about it a few years ago

And the place is really, really popular. I mean it’s heaving with people. Apparently there’s a big market for not-even-faux Chinese goop.

There are tons of these places around my way. They are all godawful, without exception. My parents love them, so I’m always careful to ask where they’re planning to go when they suggest the family have dinner together somewhere. I try to steer them to decent quality food, or else I find myself busy that evening. The reason they like them? For a flat up-front fee, they can sit there for hours and eat all they want, socialize, or watch the TV’s that are set up. So I guess for them the quality of the food is inconsequential.

Weird, we have the exact same situation here (did you grow up in Macedonia, OH?)

There’s this round restaurant that was something new or just plain vacant all the time when I was a kid. Then it became Long-Yun’s Mongolian BBQ (it’s actually just a Chinese buffet, but whatever) and it’s been going strong for quite a while now.

This, I think, gets at the core of the explanation. Most restaurants, regardless of location, fail, but the ones that succeed can last a good long time. Any given restaurant location will probably go through about a half-dozen failed iterations before hitting a success that lasts for decades, before eventually something happens like the owner dies, it goes downhill, and the cycle starts over again. So in any given town at any given moment, most restaurant locations will have a stable, successful restaurant on them, and the rest of the locations will be in the midst of a string of failures. It’s not that those spots are cursed, it’s just that they haven’t won the restaurant jackpot yet.

Or, to put it another way, all spots are cursed locations for restaurants; there are just a few establishments that manage to overcome the curse.

YES! That place was like the black hole of restaurants. I don’t know how Long-Yun made a go of it; they’re not much better or worse than any other buffet, and although it’s near the turnpike exit, there weren’t any hotels there till recently, and now all that construction has reduced the traffic significantly. Maybe it’s just the only Chinese buffet within 20 miles.

We had a restaurant like that.

Now, it’s a liquor store. Doing well.

This. I started thinking about my area (suburbs). Most of the restaurants in the area are established places that have been around a good while. But there are spots where they haven’t managed to put in anything that lasted. And once an older place finally does close down, it can take years of shuffling through different eateries before one of them catches on and lasts a while. So while some spots do seem to be “cursed”, I think it’s just a statistical clustering. What others have said about location is valid, but in my experience if people like a restaurant and it offers something unique then the location or difficulty accessing it won’t matter that much. I myself have never once said “oh I don’t want to go there, that place is a pain to get into”.