In recent years, the Lower East Side and the East Village have become a breeding ground for new and innovative concepts, many of which have achieved immense success in the area, leading to greater expansion throughout the city. The results can be seen in several recent examples, including The Meatball Shop, Luke’s Lobster, Big Gay Ice Cream, and a recent uptick in organic and raw food specialty restaurants. So what is it about these areas that continues to draw so many fledgling restaurants and allows them to thrive? There are a few common denominators in each success story:
Demographics: The demographics of the Lower East Side and the East Village is certainly one of the ingredients for success. The Lower East Side and the East Village are mainly residential communities with few office tenants, providing a dedicated repeat customer base. The neighborhoods are occupied by a young, hip, creative demographic that enjoys cultural, ethnic and creative foods. Their spending power is sufficient for a nice night out and a few drinks but doesn’t support the excess of five-star dining. Rather, this generation enjoys the restaurant and dining experience, welcoming “cool” atmospheres and trendy places to hang out. “New spots” are always of value, and everyone feels at ease to give the new guy a shot.
Neighborhood: Beyond the people who populate the Lower East Side and the East Village, the neighborhoods themselves have proven effective incubators for creative concepts. The co-tenancy—densely packed with restaurants, bars and nightclub establishments—keeps businesses open late, maximizing revenue hours. The streets are always packed with people, yet they still feel like a comfortable environment to do some walking and biking around town. Unlike other neighborhoods in Manhattan, the traffic patterns don’t confine customer traffic to the avenues. On the Lower East Side and the East Village, even the side streets thrive.
Rent: Perhaps the most important piece of the puzzle is the rent numbers. Rents in these neighborhoods are marginally lower compared with other similar places in Manhattan. Tenants often pay an additional $50 to $150 per square foot to capture the same foot traffic, exposure and business hours in other parts of the city, making the Lower East Side and the East Village particularly attractive for startup dining concepts.
The Lower East Side and the East Village have proven themselves to be great neighborhoods to springboard new, creative and specialty concepts. The level of exposure and opportunity for success offered to these new businesses have proven to be a springboard to greater success over and over again, cementing the areas’ position at the top of many restaurateurs’ wish lists.