December 9, 2016 1:35 pm

The recent announcement that more than 3,000 seals had been added to the Sydney restaurant scene, creating a restaurant oversupply and contributing to closures of many long term restaurants has prompted us to pen this issue as to when can you ‘build it and they’ll come.’

At B&P, we have determined 4 essential criteria we call our Dining DNA Barometer, that, when combined, indicate whether a developer can “Build it and they’ll come” or, conversely,  “build it and you’ll have a white elephant on your hands”. Here’s what we’re looking at when advising clients on how BOLD they can confidently be:

1. Demographics

One thing that we all have in common is that we all have to eat, so food has a place in every retail experience. But how we eat varies from suburb to suburb, influenced by age, life stage, ethnicity, income, housing composition and many other factors.

Brain & Poulter’s scorecards for the demographic attributes required for fast, slow and fresh food quickly shows the food preferences for the trade area and which food typology should be the HERO of the development. Take for example a BOLD vision to develop a fresh food hall in an area saturated with DINKS/SINKS where rental units are the majority. Would that really work? An analysis of that trade area would likely reveal a tendency to eat out given busy lifestyles and difficulty entertaining in small apartments. Developing a casual dining precinct instead would be a better fit in this case.

Trade area demographics

It pays to know who occupies your trade area and how they eat.

2. Competition

There is much sound advice in the old Rene Rivkin saying, “The trend is your friend.” Restaurateurs in particular use the supplier grapevine to get the heads up on what suburbs are the next boom locations based on supplier stories of what they’re selling to competitors. If restaurants are opening and staying open it’s a strong sign that suburb has high demand. Competition density per head of population (how many residents are there for every one restaurant), a unique analysis developed by B&P, also provides deep insights as to the level of over or under supply in a trade area.


Is there room for even more food operators in the area?

3. Current Performance

For existing sites, many insights can come from dissecting the current performance. How well does food currently trade. Is Fast food or slow food the stronger performer? How does the MATm2 compare to the sales – are tenancies too large, too small or just right? This is where existing sites have a significant advantage. A simple review of current and previous food performance should be near the top of the list when scoping the role of food in any development. Ignore the statistics at your own peril. 


L2 Broadway is a great example of building on what has already been proven to work. Image source:

4. Site Attributes

Too often we see the site attributes leading the architect’s vision rather than using the site attributes to respond to the demographics, competition and current performance. This is true ‘build it and they will come’ mentality and the main reason for precinct failures. Just because it’s a grand heritage building doesn’t mean you can convert it to a market if the demographics, current performance and competition all indicate slow food is the winner in the trade area.

Tramsheds, Harold Park is a great example of utilising site attributes to respond to trade area demographics and current competition. Image by Steven Woodburn.


Grading the trade areas characteristics to each of these 4 criteria produces the B&P Dining DNA Barometer score below indicating how likely a BOLD vision is to succeed.

Dining DNA Barometer

We’ve seen BOLD developments in Sydney, Gold Coast, Melbourne and Perth this year. Some followed these principles, some didn’t – only time will reveal their success.

If a BOLD new development is on the cards for you and your team then don’t leave things to chance. Call B&P to book your development in for a Dining DNA Barometer reading and discover if you really can build it and they will come.