Finding The Perfect Restaurant Space—What To Discuss With Your Broker

In today’s world of retail commercial real estate, few things get more buzz than a new and exciting restaurant concept. When we ask what people would like to see in a particular property or development, the vast majority of requests and comments are for restaurants. So this got us thinking, what do restaurateurs need to look for and consider when deciding on the best property to lease or purchase for their new concept?

At Crunkleton, we’ve helped a number of clients reach their goals of opening a successful restaurant. Here are a few things your broker needs to discuss with you before beginning the search for the perfect piece of property:

Concept & Clientele

The first thing we need to examine is your concept, who your customers are, and when they will be coming to visit. Is your concept open for all three meals of the day or just dinner? What will your busiest time of day be? Knowing your projected peak hours will help you determine if you need to be situated near a large daytime/work population or an area with a more active evening population.

You may also need to consider how commuter traffic affects your desired location. Do you need to capture the crowd heading to work during the morning hours? Or will you get more business after work hours? Determining these factors first will narrow down the areas that need to be considered, making your search more efficient while eliminating areas that wouldn’t be suitable.

We also need to consider local zoning laws. If you serve alcohol, then we need to make sure we search in the correct zoning district and may need to be a certain distance from protected uses, such as schools and churches.

Size & Special Features

Next, let’s determine what size space you need and if you require any special features such as a drive-thru or outdoor patio. One of the biggest factors in the success of a restaurant will be occupancy costs. Essentially, this is how much it costs you to occupy the space in relation to your sales volume. A space too large will drive up your occupancy costs by leaving you to pay rent on empty tables that aren’t producing sales. A space too small may limit the number of customers you can serve, therefore driving up occupancy costs by not producing enough sales to cover your expenses. Finding the appropriate size space is critical to long-term success.

These added features (like the patio or drive-thru) may be beneficial to your business and drive more customer traffic. Properties with these features generally cost more to lease or purchase, but the increased costs may be worth it in the long run.

Parking & Accessibility

Another important factor to consider is parking and accessibility. Like we mentioned previously, these factors will largely be determined by your concept. A lunch-focused restaurant may need to be more concerned with parking and convenience than a sit-down dinner concept. If your patrons will be pressed for time, having an abundance of parking close to the front door may be important.

Are you a quick-serve breakfast concept? Then you may want to be located on the “going-to-work” side of the road so customers can easily swing in and out during their morning commute and don’t have to waste time crossing traffic or waiting on a light to change.


Lastly, let’s talk about the condition of the space we need to be looking for during our search. Can you handle the initial build-out of the restaurant or do we need to find a space that has previously been a restaurant? Restaurant spaces have requirements that may not be in place in some of the properties we find, such as grease traps, vent hoods, adequate HVAC, etc.

Finding spaces that already have these features installed can certainly save time and money when it comes to build-out and getting open, but may be difficult to find and costlier to lease or purchase. Part of a broker’s job is knowing the market well enough to expedite your search and introduce you to spaces that fit your needs when it come to these necessities.

Obviously saving that time and money on build-out would be nice, but don’t let your decision on the final location be driven by the fact that the space is a second-generation restaurant space. We’ve put this last on the list because we believe from our experience that the other factors are more important to the long-term success of a restaurant than saving some money during the build-out.

Are you searching for the perfect restaurant space? Be sure to check out our full list of available restaurant spaces here.

And give us a call at 256-536-8809, or email us at Our retail brokers would be happy to help you with your search and answer any questions you have.


Zac Buckley
VP of Leasing
Crunkleton Commercial Real Estate Group


Originally from Tennessee, Zac studied business management at Samford University. After moving to Huntsville in 2001, Zac started out his career in banking, wealth management, and financial planning. In 2010 he joined Crunkleton and has since become the VP of Leasing for the commercial real estate group where he focuses on retail leasing and development.

Jordan McKinney Joins Crunkleton As Office Manager!

Crunkleton is excited to announce the newest addition to its team, Jordan McKinney! Jordan will serve as the new Office Manager and oversee day-to-day operations of the company including scheduling, interfacing with clients, assisting the brokers and marketing team with projects, and more.

“Crunkleton has a reputation for placing the client’s needs first, and that’s what initially attracted me to the company,” said Jordan. “I am thrilled to be part of such an awesome team and I look forward to creating lasting relationships with our clients and vendors.”

Jordan McKinney

Jordan was born and raised in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where she attended Northridge High School. After graduation, she was accepted to The University of Alabama where she earned her Bachelor of Science in Human Environmental Sciences with a major in Early Childhood Education.

Most recently, Jordan assisted clients at HealthSource Chiropractic in Huntsville as the Office Manager. At HealthSource, she ensured efficiency and communication with patients, created patient treatment plans from physicians’ orders, and completed human resource functions by screening and interviewing applicants.

In her free time, Jordan loves exploring new retail shops downtown, working out at Iron Tribe, and spending time with her dogs Cow and Wrigley. She also enjoys going on adventures and traveling with her husband Nick.

You can reach Jordan by email at, or call 256-536-8809.

Make sure you’re staying on top of the latest trends, newest developments and hottest new stores in Huntsville by subscribing to our weekly blog updates!

haley_squareHALEY CLEMONS

Broker Spotlight: Richard Crunkleton

Richard Crunkleton, CCIM

How did you become interested in commercial real estate?

I was busy doing other things in life related to construction and development when I came across it. My interest began when I started purchasing value-added properties and fixing them up—I’d lease and eventually sell them.

I began to think that doing deals like that every day would be a fun way to make a living. Soon after, I pursued my real estate license and earned my CCIM designation. It feels like this business was personally made for me. I’m able to work with numbers and people—two things I love.

What were you doing before you discovered commercial real estate?

Great question. I had a number of “day jobs” that led me to where I am today. My background is in Civil Engineering. In fact, I earned my degree from The University of Kentucky in that field. I knew I wasn’t going to work in that industry full time after graduation, but I did a lot of design work while in school for different co-op engineering firms. What really appealed to me about those types of jobs was working with numbers.

I’ve worked in Atlanta at a construction consulting firm, in Dallas with a developer, and ended up in Columbus, Ohio at a highway contracting firm. Columbus was where I made my next big career move by purchasing a Stanley Steemer franchise. My wife Nancy and I ended up moving to Montgomery, Alabama and running that business together for 10 years. She ran it on her own for another 10 when I moved on to commercial real estate.

How did you end up in Huntsville?

Well, at the time I was unhappy in Montgomery. I knew the Huntsville market pretty well and I saw opportunities.

We didn’t know anyone in the area, but we quickly became involved. It wasn’t long before we started Crunkleton Commercial Real Estate. We knew shortly after that we wanted to grow the business.

What do you think contributes to a successful commercial real estate business?

In commercial real estate, you have to offer exceptional service in areas like leasing, property management, selling of properties, and development. But really the value lies in providing industry knowledge to your client and applying that knowledge to deals that will maximize their benefit.

We care a lot about our clientele, and we have had the pleasure of working with some of them several times.

What do you love about your job?

Every day is a new challenge with different opportunities. Figuring out how to make a deal work well for everyone is what I love the most.

Sometimes a client will come to you and not know exactly what they need. You have to take the time to assess the situation and discover what that is. You have to find out what’s important to them so you can draw lines in negotiations.

I really enjoy working with people and helping them discover their needs so a mutually beneficial deal can be made.

What would you say to someone who is interested in becoming a broker?

You need a passion for it. It has to be something that you wake up every morning wanting to do. You also have to be prepared to work on the same deal for a long time. Things in this business don’t happen overnight. Actually, the longest deal I ever worked on took more than 9 years to complete. But the deal worked out well.

Patience and attention to detail help make deals successful and advantageous for all parties involved.

What do you think contributes to Huntsville’s continual growth?

This city is always asking what they can do to make more of an impact—to make things better. It’s an extremely supportive community when it comes to new endeavors and ideas. It’s that outlook that makes growth possible.

I always encourage people to serve on local committees or boards. Nancy and I have been involved with the Huntsville Museum of Art since we moved here. It’s where we have developed many friends and business relationships.

We consider ourselves very blessed and we enjoy giving back to the community. No matter how much you give, you always get more back.

What do you enjoy doing outside of the office?

Spending time with Nancy and my family is very important to me. And, many people don’t know this, but I used to drive race cars—Porsches mostly. I quit driving in 2010, but I’ll always love it. I also love spending time at the family farm and I cherish the memories we’ve made there.

Make sure you’re staying on top of the latest trends, newest developments and hottest new stores in Huntsville by subscribing to our weekly blog updates!

haley_squareHALEY CLEMONS

Trend Report For 2018: A Pivotal Time for Brick and Mortar Retail

Possibly not since the first enclosed mall opened in 1956 in Edina, Minnesota, has brick and mortar retail experienced such a pivotal point in its history. Most would attribute the changing retail environment to the effects of e-commerce and the Goliath that is Amazon; however, we believe there are more powerful factors at work.

In-store brick and mortar retail sales accounted for more than 89% of total retail sales in 2016, and early indications seem to point to 2017 being the best holiday shopping season in 4 years. So, if people are still shopping at brick and mortar stores, why do we hear the term “retail apocalypse” every time we turn on CNBC or pick up a Wall Street Journal?

The End Of The Department Store Era—Not Brick And Mortar

What we are seeing is not the demise of brick and mortar retail, but more the end of the department store era. Department-store-anchored malls that sold everything from apparel and electronics to furniture and home appliances dominated the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. But specialized big-box retailers have steadily eroded the department store model over the last three decades.

Eventually, we were left with malls anchored by department stores that focused on just a few categories centered on apparel. Does this mean that we will soon see the end of department stores and enclosed malls? Yes and no.

We will continue to see enclosed malls struggle to compete with convenience/grocery-anchored centers, experience-based shopping destinations, open-air lifestyle centers like Bridge Street Town Centre, and local specialty destinations such as The Garage at Clinton Row. Many malls will be able to adapt and survive with the addition of entertainment venues, hotels, and even office space. Others will simply disappear from the landscape to be replaced by a more modern retail and entertainment experience as we are seeing take place at the site of the old Madison Square Mall.

As far as the old department store is concerned, we are already seeing the same type of adaption into a more mixed offering of services and experiences. Many department stores are starting to reduce the size of the sales floor to make room for cafés, salons, pop-up shops, and even fitness concepts. Not all department stores will survive, but the ones that do will be more focused on the high-end specialty categories and customer experience. Instead of existing for exclusively for retail sales, they will provide a total experience and numerous services in one convenient location.

What Does The Future Look Like?

What can consumers expect the retail environment to look like in the future? Currently, the trend is what is called omni-channel retail. This is a combination of brick and mortar stores with online and mobile sales. As evidenced by Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods, e-commerce retailers are getting into the physical storefront game. It appears they understand the value of physical storefronts and their impact on the bottom-line. Sure, online shopping is convenient, but does it result in sales?

Research has shown that over 40% of items purchased online are returned. Furthermore, consumers make a purchase at a rate of 20% of the time when they walk into an actual store. That rate drops to 3% when visiting a website. The successful retailer of the future will be able to combine online, mobile/social media, and physical locations to create a positive experience for the customer.

One issue that is flying under the radar is the new tax reform bill and its impact on retailers. A reduction in the corporate tax rate could have a significant influence on the ability of brick and mortar retailers to compete with e-commerce retailers. With the reduction of the corporate tax rate, the savings experienced by the retailers can be used for an investment into omni-channel/mobile platforms, upgrading stores, or simply lowering prices to compete with e-commerce.

A Theme Of Adaptation

In conclusion, we continue to believe that the future is bright for both retailers and landlords. Once again, the theme continues to be adaptation. Traditional retailers are building their online presence and e-commerce retailers are getting into the bricks and mortar game. This environment creates opportunities for landlords that have the vision to meet the changing demands of consumers and the needs of the omni-channel retailer. It’s certainly an interesting time in retail, but one that can bring exciting changes to the benefit of everyone.

 Have questions about the changing retail market? Wondering how you can adapt in 2018? You can contact Zac at or by calling 256-536-8809.

Originally from Tennessee, Zac studied business management at Samford University. After moving to Huntsville in 2001, Zac started out his career in banking, wealth management, and financial planning. In 2010 he joined Crunkleton and has since become the VP of Leasing for the commercial real estate group where he focuses on retail leasing and development.

Zac Buckley
VP of Leasing
Crunkleton Commercial Real Estate Group