Whether we’re enjoying a restaurant’s spacious interior or the sights and sounds of nature on their outdoor patio, dining out is the perfect antidote to a night stuck at home.
Of course, what restaurants universally sacrifice in order to accommodate us is space. The “back of the house” where meals are prepared are often cramped quarters. The hot line, prep and garde manger (salad and dessert) stations consume what little room is not devoted to refrigeration.
And extra restaurant space is one need that smart self storage operators are happy to meet.
For some, like Keith Lopshire, manager of Geist Self Storage in Indianapolis, IN, location plays a key role in serving the needs of his food and beverage tenants.
“We have a strip mall right in front of us that houses two or three different restaurants, so we offer easy access in and out when they need it,” Lopshire said, “Obviously, there is no refrigerated storage or anything that would keep food cold; they store a mix of restaurant supplies and personal items in the units here.”
For others, like Cyndi Marcy, manager of Q2 Self Storage in Louisville, KY, fine dining establishments are perfectly willing to drive a few miles to solve their seasonal needs.
“We have a lot of restaurants here, and most of them started by storing their summer outdoor patio chairs and tables for the winter,” Marcy said.
Now at least four restaurants are storing equipment there year-round, Marcy said.
Targeting the market
A few operators, like Norm Kotoch, Jr., president of Security Self Storage in Cleveland, OH, have actively cultivated the restaurant trade by providing something they need – extra storage space – and eliminating something they dread – having to sacrifice wait staff, busboys and line cooks to move furniture instead of meals.
“We store a lot of their outdoor deck and patio furniture for the winter months, and we were successful in garnering their business by providing the truck and maintenance crew to move those items,” Kotoch said.
Kotoch said his crew makes occasional trips for them, to and from the restaurant.
“That kind of took the hassle out of the equation for them. The easier we made it for them, the more likely they were to go with us. We’ve kind of found a niche in that,” Kotoch said.
Restaurants have multiple and very specific needs for self storage, sometimes without knowing it. While the convenience of storing seasonal outdoor furniture, catering chafers and holiday decorations off-site typically prompts a rental, restaurateurs often find other uses that quickly turn their part-time rental into a permanent arrangement.
“We store their employee records and old sales receipts and documentation that they’re required to hang on to,” Kotoch noted.
Some restaurants even have the solution before they have the problem.
“We had one restaurant tenant that had remodeled, and they used their unit to store the tables and chairs for quite awhile until they were able to sell them,” Marcy from Q2 Self Storage said.
“Another of our tenant restaurants is located inside a hotel, and a lot of times the hotel will store stuff in there,” Marcy said.
No food allowed
None of these three restaurant-friendly storage operators allow food of any kind to be stored in their units, refrigerated or not. That said, with food and beverage tenants, the need for refrigeration sometimes calls for out-of-the-cooler thinking.
“We’ve had several food truck customers in our outside parking area. One time, a food truck operator had an ice cream freezer and he needed a pole with power that he could hook up to so he could keep that freezer running at night,” Marcy said. “We have very few poles for outside parking but we were able to accommodate him.”
Kotoch encourages storage operators with mobility and multiple locations to get to know their local restaurateurs. It just might be the win-win that helps fill those remote, hard-to-rent units.