Business on Guadalupe Street near West Campus appears to be booming with four new restaurants opening this fall, despite slower economic conditions nationally.
Qdoba owner Kortney Otten, who opened a Mexican restaurant for the first time Wednesday, said locating her business next to the Drag was a critical decision in the two-year planning process.
“It’s tough, but we’re hoping that this location gives a little bit of a buffer zone from the economy,” Otten said. “It’s tough for restaurant and small business owners all over the country right now. Austin in general has been pretty competitive. It would be a lot easier if there was someone down at Austin City Council to work with us on getting everything approved.”
Verts Kebap co-owner Michael Heyne said adequate planning was the key to getting restaurant plans approved. Heyne and fellow UT McCombs almnus Dominik Stein opened two locations for their German-style fast food in August this year, one on Guadalupe and the other in the Dobie Center.
“It was complicated with many steps, but we never felt left alone through the process,” Heyne said. “It doesn’t need to be difficult.”
Although hungry students have effectively shielded the restaurant trade from decreased consumer spending, the trade-off appears to be exorbitantly high commercial rates for business owners, Heyne said. Commercial spaces in Austin range from $15-40 per square foot, with Guadalupe Street at around $38.50 — rivaling the Sixth Street bar area.
“The most difficult part was to find a location. The rents are very high,” Heyne said. “Restaurants come and go very fast on Guadalupe. We were warned of the risks, three restaurants closed last fall alone. The overall market size is not relevant if you have a successful concept.”
Isbah Raja, a Plan II senior, said it was good to have new restaurants opening on Guadalupe, as the options become repetitive very quickly.
“I eat out at least once a day, trying to spend about $7 per meal,” Raja said.
“Recently, I’ve been pretty disappointed just because I’ve eaten at all these places so many times.”
Business junior Karishma Hossain said she would probably eat out more than the three times a week she does currently if there were healthier options near campus.
“There’s a lot of variety, but I really feel like they’re not that healthy for me,” Hossein said. “If you go for the cheaper options, the reality is they are not very good for you.”
Printed on Thursday, October 13, 2011 as: Shops on the Drag open after careful planning