Recipe for a new restaurant development:
• 1 lot available
• 1 large population
• Abundant traffic cup
• Disposable Income Dash
• Pinch of workers available
Mix the ingredients with the planning department. Cook until ready.
Cooking time varies by community.
Lately Auburn has this recipe down. The city is coming up with new restaurant developments almost as fast as people can swallow the news of the next announcement.
Meanwhile, a few miles away in Kendallville, residents are salivating as they watch their neighbors binge as the development furnace at home has long been cold.
Economic development of all types is a game of attraction, with communities trying to woo businesses to locate and bring their jobs, goods and services to the area. However, the challenge is to prove to this company that your community has all the necessary ingredients to meet their plans for success.
Restaurant development is no different, but compared to a factory making auto parts and selling to a manufacturer, a burrito manufacturing company seeks to sell its product immediately to the general public. And this foot-traffic-based model changes the dynamics of what’s most important.
And when it comes to the food industry, people come first.
Auburn is currently experiencing a boom in new restaurant developments, with the city announcing that four major restaurant chains plan to set up shop just around the city’s Interstate 69 exit at SR 8.
Burrito shops Salsa Grille and Chipotle are both opening locations, while the fast-casual McAlister’s Deli is also arriving, along with the always crowded and popular steakhouse chain, Texas Roadhouse.
All four of those ads have dropped in recent months, making the summer of 2022 one of northeast Indiana’s biggest food booms in years, maybe ever.
But this prosperity and this growth are not shared everywhere. A few miles north, Angola has seen its share of new growth with a Biggby cafe opening in 2021 and a new Culver this summer, along with a handful of local owners – like Buck Lake Bar and Grill this week and Lake It Easy Gourmet this summer. summer – recently opened to add to the city’s extensive lineup of local chains and restaurants.
West of Auburn in Kendallville, however, the development scene has been and remains cold. The last national chain restaurant Kendallville got was an IHOP in 2020, and that itself was the first corporate development to happen in years. But even on the local side, new restaurants are quite rare and a frequent subject of desire for residents.
Auburn Mayor Mike Ley contributed to his city’s recent boom as a result of efforts when he took office, during which his administration called phone lines and made calls everywhere in an effort to hook new developments.
“We called the developers, whoever would answer the phone,” Ley said. “We just started calling like we were sales people and if you answered the phone you’d have a story about Auburn.”
That alone doesn’t necessarily explain it, however, as Mayor Suzanne Handshoe of Kendallville is no stranger to the phone, email or letter. But the efforts made during his multiple terms have not borne the same fruit.
“It’s not for the government to (build) a restaurant, but it’s my duty to at least try,” Handshoe said. “I write letters and we always get a negative response or nothing, so we keep writing.”
So what are the factors at play?
One of the biggest – traffic.
Auburn’s new restaurants are all circled just around the city’s I-69 exit and that’s no coincidence.
While Kendallville, Auburn and Angola all have similar populations – 9,300 in Angola to around 13,500 in Auburn – and similar household incomes – $46,000 per year in Angola to around $52,000 per year in Auburn – traffic is a big difference between the three communities.
Kendallville and Auburn are peer cities, and their east-west highways aren’t even that different. US 6 in Kendallville has about 16,000 vehicles per day, while SR 8 in Auburn isn’t too busy, with about 18,000 cars per day.
But then look north-south. SR 3, a state highway, brings 12,500 vehicles per day to Kendallville, while I-69 is nearly triple that, with 33,000 vehicles per day. Even further north, I-69 still carries approximately 23,000 vehicles per day in the Ashley area and areas north of the US 20 exit at the gates of Angola.
Auburn also benefits from its geography and its proximity to Fort Wayne. It’s 14 minutes from I-69 from the Dupont Road interchange in Fort Wayne, while it takes a driver 25 minutes to travel the State Road to Kendallville from the SR 3/Dupont intersection. Road.
Restaurants obviously want traffic to stop immediately from the freeway, Ley notes, but other businesses in Auburn, like grocery stores and retailers, have also seen big gains in recent years, suggesting the boom is not limited to interstate traffic.
“When you look at Auburn versus other communities, Auburn is a regional market,” Ley said.
“I can go north and probably for the same number of minutes in the car as being at a restaurant or a business in Auburn, so we’re seeing more and more Allen County expand,” Ley added.
In Angola, the city is seeing an effect from Interstate 69, although most new development in Angola has been closer to downtown than the highway, Mayor Dick Hickman noted. Although Angola lacks the exchange presence that Auburn has, it makes up for it with a large population of summer lakes as well as Trine University that attract thousands of students and their families.
“The lakes attract about 250,000 people to their summer homes and not just the rented ones. And we have a million, two, tourists enjoying the lakes,” Hickman said. “With all the kids here, (Trine has) around 50,000 people a year that they draw here. It’s kinda tight there and usually they don’t come and go the same day, usually they stay one night or two. “
Hickman also noted that he’s surprised Angola’s I-69 interchange hasn’t attracted more development than it currently has, even though it’s obviously a hot spot. potential for future growth.
For Kendallville, the city, unfortunately, just doesn’t have the same kind of geography. People and traffic matter when it comes to dining establishments, and Kendallville simply can’t post the same kind of numbers as its regional neighbors.
“Developers are looking for this. The letters I get are always ‘Thank you for your interest, but you don’t have the traffic or the population. We try to include ourselves in areas where we know there will be more visitors or higher traffic count,” Handshoe said.
Both Ley and Hickman recognized the importance of their geographic and demographic characteristics. When asked directly if Auburn would have the same luck without I-69, or if Angola would see food growth without the lakes or Trine, both mayors said emphatically no. Without these, their towns would likely be in the same position as Kendallville.
Since Kendallvile isn’t just going to land an out-of-the-box Texas Roadhouse, it also won’t be easy to get even some of the casual chains or fast mid-range and higher seating that are typically at the low end areas. high-traffic or high-population — like an oft-requested Culver’s, for example — Kendallville works a different wooing strategy.
Handshoe instead focused on a strategy to attract smaller regional chains or encourage the expansion of moms and pops, she said. One of the benefits of this route is that it can potentially develop an eclectic mix of local specialties as opposed to the chain menus that people can get wherever they can find a location.
But even that has its own unique challenges, the mayor said.
“The things we do well here are mom and pop type indie places,” Handshoe said. “We’d like to have a good Shorty’s or an Italian Grille or something. And I’ve talked to these owners, but they keep saying, ‘I can’t do two restaurants as good as I can. make a. “”