Shopping Center Business

MAY 2016

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RESTAURANTS 330 • SHOPPING CENTER BUSINESS • May 2016 A s food becomes more of a driver in the retail real estate business, a number of markets have come to the forefront as leaders with the number of chef-driven restaurants and new food concepts. With new food halls, several retail corridors and new projects seem- ingly exploding with new food-based ac- tivity, Washington, D.C., is one of those markets. Shopping Center Business recently interviewed Tom Papadopoulos, founder and principal broker at Washington-based Papadopoulos Properties, to get his take on the industry in his hometown. Papado- poulos has been one of the area's pre-em- inent restaurant brokers for the past 30 years. He is known as a go-to broker for chefs, and he does a majority of new chef-driven restaurant deals in the city. SCB: The restaurant climate in Washing- ton, D.C., right now is incredibly active. How has it changed in the last 10 years? Papadopoulos: Washington was a steak and potatoes town for many years. Steak- houses really ruled the market here. There was nothing else really too extravagant — maybe two or three fine dining, high-end restaurants. In the last 10 years or so, there has been an influx of groups from all over the country — particularly from New York — that have brought restaurant concepts here. Chefs have become celeb- rities through television, and everybody is clambering to get them. There have been a lot of those guys coming to town. Wash- ington has really become an international restaurant town. SCB: Do you think there was a lot of op- portunity in D.C. for chef-driven concepts because others stayed away? In some ways, Washington has incubated its own restaurants because there were no chains. Papadopoulos: There really weren't any chains. It was always local guys, for the most part, and then everything changed in the last eight to 10 years. We have some of the biggest names in food in town now, and some of the other ones are scouting around. It's always been a good market because of the government, the lobbyists and law firms — there's plenty of money here. We've never really had a recession. We consistently did well. There was a time where the high-end restaurants stopped looking, but other than that it was steady flow. It is a very stable market. SCB: When this restaurant movement started, did it begin in a particular area? Or has it been all parts of town? And where has it spread to since? Papadopoulos: Back in the old days, K Street was sort of restaurant row, and it's moved away from there. When the Veri- zon Center was built — it's probably 12 or 13 years old now — that area just exploded. It really transformed the entire area, and that became the hottest area in town. D.C. now, there are no bad areas in the city. Restaurants are everywhere, and what you find here is, if you open up a restaurant in D.C., and you have a good product and it's a pretty good restaurant, people will find you. You don't have to be at main and main anymore in D.C. There's six or seven areas in the city where restaurants are right now. D.C. is not a big land area, so it's tight for space. If you find a space, and open the right restaurant, you'll be very successful. SCB: What are some of those six or seven areas where they're looking to go? Papadopoulos: The Verizon Center area, Shaw, Logan Circle, the H Street Northeast quarter, even Bloomingdale, which is a smaller area in town now has taken off, the central business district — the old school part of town — has a lot of new restaurants com- ing in. Even Adams Morgan is starting to make a comeback. SCB: Now that the district has seen a lot of success with local concepts and chef-driven restaurants, we notice that suburban retail real estate owners are try- ing to lure some concepts. Is it that they've been so successful downtown, people want them closer to home? Papadopoulos: A lot of chefs have moved out to the suburbs because of demand, and lack of space in the city. Whether it's Tyson's Corner, or the Mo- saic District of Bethesda, or Clarendon and Ballston; most every restaurant that is downtown has moved to those areas. When these restaurants come to town, they located in D.C. first for the most part, and then they mushroom out. There's only so much business you can do in the city. SCB: Has the growth of the local restau- rants caused more national players to en- ter Washington, D.C.? Papadopoulos: The concepts from New York, Los Angeles and Chicago are all looking here. If you are familiar with the City Center project, there are six restaurants in that project, and we placed five out of the six. The only one that we didn't do was Del Frisco's. All of the other restaurants, with the exception of one lo- cal chef, were based out of town. One was an international group. We put in David Chef-Driven Tom Papadopoulos has been a part of the D.C. restaurant market for 30 years. Here, he discusses the market's evolution of becoming one of the nation's best restaurant cities. Interview by Randall Shearin Papadopoulos

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