A friend of mine texted me on Sunday saying that Five Guys Burgers and Fries were opening up on Monday. I was excited, because aside from In and Out Burger, I think FGB&F make a damn good burger. I talked to another friend of mine later in the day, and they were unhappy that another chain restaurant was opening in Hoboken, and the Mom & Pop businesses were getting shoved aside for corporate America.
I have a simple philosophy about Hoboken retail businesses:
If they were better than the chain stores, then the chains wouldn't have to open.
Result? There's not a restaurant in town to get a good, consistent meal.
Now hold on.
"Good" and "consistent" are my key words.
There's lots of places I have been to in town that I had a great dinner. Then i'd go back again and be disappointed. Rarely have I found any restaurant in town where I really have enjoyed myself over and over again. There's a few places that are my favorites:
Before I get a bunch of comments - Court Street, Triple A's, The Madison, Amanda's, Cafe Elysian & Augustino's I think are good. Not great. But good.
But there's also a ton of mediocre restaurants in Hoboken, and to me - i'd rather have a good "chain" restaurant than some of the local average restaurants that we are saddled with.
You can knock the chains all you want, but they provide a consistently good meal. Here's my Top 5 casual dining chain restaurants (not fast food) that would destroy the competition in Hoboken, keeping in mind our demographics (young single people and middle aged married yuppie couples):
1. Chili's. I know. So Middle America, but hear me out. Chili's isn't fine dining, but it's consistently good, like I wrote. Baby Back Ribs? Fajitas? Burgers? Seafood? Steaks? Sandwiches? It's got something for everyone and make awesome frozen margaritas that would give Baja on 14th a serious challenge (I hate Baja's food, but do like their tequila selection and frozen drinks). Plunk a Chili's next to Baja and who would get more business? You know that Chili would put them out of business in a heartbeat.
2. Outback Steakhouse. Yes, there is one in Edgewater, which isn't really walkable and lots of Hobokenites don't have cars (and consider that Hobokenites think walking 10 blocks from uptown to downtown is "too far"). This isn't premium steak like Peter Luger or The Palm or The Strip House - but they make a consistently good steak and have other good grilled food on the menu. Everytime I walk into an Outback it is packed. Everytime I pass an Outback, I think about going back there.
3. Cheesecake Factory. Hate it all you want, but the place is jammed packed everytime I walk in for dinner and can you imagine a restaurant like this in Hoboken for the casual meal that people want? It would be gangbusters. Close down The Melting Pot Restaurant and open the Cheesecake Factory right there. Would be busy every night.
4. Buffalo Wild Wings or Hooters. Again, stick with what works in Hoboken - beer & bar food. Buffalo Wild Wings would take on the the reigning champions like Rogo's or Black Bear and humiliate them. Hooters, albeit a more risky choice in a town like Hoboken (I wonder what the Hoboken411 backlash would be like...), make some of the best wings in the business.
5. IHOP: Everyone was estatic with Turning Point (which, remember isn't some Mom & Pop restaurant). An 24 hour IHOP, in the right location, would be always busy. Someone go to Malibu Diner, buy them out and put an IHOP there & then open another IHOP downtown (somewhere near Zebu Forno). Tell me that the place wouldn't be packed on Saturday and Sunday for brunches. Tell me that the place wouldn't be packed from 2am - 4am after drinking hours. Tell me that for lunch it wouldn't do good business with the waterfront business crowd. Tell me that for dinner it wouldn't get a crowd. No chance. It would kill in this town.
Lots of people would also ask "Hey, where would you build these places? Hoboken has such bad commerical real estate, that chain restaurants cant even open here if they wanted to..."
First place i'd say is the new building they are putting up next to the W Hotel at 2nd and River. There's going to be enough space there to open any of the above mentioned restaurants.
The municipal parking garage was sold, and the new building there should have 8,000 square feet of retail space. Perfect location on Observer Highway that would draw people with the right kind of restaurant (depending if they can get a liquor license or not).
Don't forget about Metrostop. It's not the most desireable location, but there's lots of Hobokenites that are moving to the area of the Metrostop and they need places to eat, too. I'm sure the retail cost per square foot may be cheaper than the other locations.
If tomorrow I won $5 million, that's what I'd do with my money. I'd buy a franchise and open it in Hoboken. I know how the market would react to any of the five I listed and would rake in the profits.