Danny Mayer has the golden touch. Through his Union Square Hospitality Group, the New York restaurateur runs some of NYC’s most beloved restaurants. The Unions Square Cafe was his beginning launch, the Modern at the Museum of Modern Art, Gramercy Tavern, and Blue Smoke. His Shake Shack, the burger chain with outposts internationally (from a local suburb to Dubai) Danny is known for the quality of food, well trained staff with warmth and professionalism. He is a author of “Setting the Table: Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business and shares what being a host really means.

Now Union Square Cafe joins other victims of NYC’s rising rents. They will have to leave, close its doors after 30 years and move. Even a successful restaurant is hard pressed to make a profit on its own with landlords that can lease the space to others that will pay the highest price. There are no ‘sweetheart deals’. And the workable formula for rent as 5-10% of gross revenue for a restaurant cannot happen in these high price neighborhoods. This is no different than many key American cities.

Is there power in the business development offices in key towns and cities on all of this, encouraging landlords not to go after the almighty buck, but keeping the neighborhoods fresh and vibrant with creative merchants and restaurants?   Are we going to be overrun with national chain stores and banks?  In London as a comparison, there are landlords committed to retaining their distinctive identities. There are local politicians working with the ownership of buildings to encourage a mix of retail, and excitement to create traffic, not only offices on street level.  In order to do this there needs to be  powerful voices and commitment on strategy.

So what does this have to do with me?  We have been looking at real estate for a small store in Boston and Brookline, and disillusioned with prices and commitments of landlords to provide clean space. Doing the math, for less than 1000- sq ft using the 10% formula of total occupancy and the costs I’ve seen, that means gross sales have to be about  $800,000.  That is about 3 times what a new small business could generate.  Now you see why those yogurt and ice cream shops are gone.

Who is taking up key spots on corners that are ‘ground zero’?  They are banks that pay top dollar…no surprise…but they are doing some creative things with their spaces.


Capital One 360 …not only  a bank but a Cafe-Peet’s Coffee and grab a snack.  I walked into the location in Boston and a concierge introduced herself, asked if I wanted to order coffee, to stay to work on my computer, and informed me that the meeting in the glass conference room was for local non-profits, there is privacy for interview space, and comfortable chairs to stay awhile.  The space was packed with people.  Opening on the east and west coast, their next location Coolidge Corner in Brookline near my home.

Watch for this in your neighborhood. The new concept might take the place of a quiet library, scrambling to find a space for a meeting, an interview in the mall, and the preferred location of match.com…and I don’t think they care if they are near Starbucks.  Forget the bar scene…grab a juice and meet friends!  And banking…now they got’chah!