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Starting a Restaurant? Head Back to School


Thinking of starting a restaurant? College campuses are proving profitable for these three concepts.

Winging It

Millennials have changed their dining-out habits—and it’s not good news for restaurant owners. According to a study by research group NPD, younger Millennials (ages 18 to 24) “made 27 fewer visits (per person) to restaurants between 2009 and 2012,” though this has ticked up a bit in the last two years.

There are a few bright spots, however. The first is in the fast-casual sector, where fresh food and friendly service are attracting younger Millennials.

Another positive sign can be seen on college campuses. If you own a restaurant (or want to) you might think a campus location is the last place you’d want to be. After all, how much can students spend on food?

For Matt Friedman, the CEO of Wing Zone, who co-founded the chain in a fraternity house at the University of Florida, being located on or near a college campus is smart business. There are currently 14 “college” Wing Zones, with plans “to open at least 10 more within the next 18 months.”

Wing Zones on campus (and the company’s military locations) are, says Friedman, “the best performers within our system” with average ticket prices the same as non-college locations. In fact, Friedman says, Wing Zone’s “menu fits perfectly with the 18-to-24 age group, which is vital to most brands because [these customers] are just beginning to develop their own purchasing patterns. Once we attract this age group it is likely they’ll be a customer for a long time.”

Most locations are set up for delivery and carryout, making the concept is ideal for on-the-go students. Wing Zone focuses on mobile marketing to reach college students, using social media, text messaging and an online ordering app.

Every Which Way

Which Wich Superior Sandwiches currently has nine restaurants located on college campuses, with plans to open five more through the first quarter of 2015. Jeff Vickers, SVP of development, echoes Friedman in saying the only downside is that business is seasonal due to students being gone during holidays and summer.

Which Wich stores have a unique design and element of fun the student sector loves, says Vickers; the college locations perform “above average.” Vickers credits today’s students’ more sophisticated palate and desire to “be in control” with the popularity of Which Wich’s customizable-sandwich concept.

Which Wich assesses the market and campus the stores are on, then works with the on-campus marketing department to find opportunities for partnerships, sponsorships or events. The company targets new students during freshmen orientation, all students during midterms and finals, and campus fraternities and sororities via fundraising opportunities.

A New Twist

Currently located on or near six college campuses, Philly Pretzel Factory also has expansion plans. Adam Terranova, the company’s marketing manager, says while “weekends and holidays tend to be slower than usual because there are less students on campus, most campuses offer secondary programs like alumni weekend that create really large sales weekends.”

Philly Pretzel Factory is a “grab-and-go concept” and the chain’s on-campus or near-campus locations are among its top-performing stores. Even though students don’t order hiree pretzels and a Coke keeps cash registers ringing.gher priced items like party trays, their typical order of th

“Sampling is the best way to bring in new students,” Terranova says . “When they try it, they like it and keep coming back for more.”

If you’re thinking of opening a restaurant on or near a college campus the formula for success seems to be serving tasty, take-out food students can afford.


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Top photo courtesy: Wing Zone. Bottom photo courtesy: Which Wich