The best time to start is right now. Finding a location is now the focus. The first location search is the most challenging because everything is an unknown. Searching for a second location to expand a concept, one is armed with check average percentages, cost of good sold percentages, labor percentages, traffic flow’s, customer experiences, etc. The first location is all intuition. You will know the space when you see it. This notion holds true even if you are tweaking or improving an existing concept. The market’s response to your concept is an unknown variable, regardless of how confident you might be that it is similar to other concepts.
“Location. location, location” is a well worn mantra. Accessibility, visibility, approachability, affordability are all ingredients, however the space created in your mind is the true guide. High traffic flow is preferable, regardless of concept. Downtown, suburban, emerging area, which best suites your need? Who is your target customer and how will they access your restaurant. Your search requires that you enlist the help of a real estate broker familiar with the local restaurant market. This is a total aside and a subject of another post, however specialization of labor is the key to growth. Do not try to master every aspect of the business, surround yourself with specialists in all fields. A broker familiar with the local restaurant real estate market can save you time and resources in the search. The internet search engines provide a treasure of info as well.