Owners Fear Too Many Downtown Restaurants May Spoil Market
Rozek, Dan, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Dan Rozek Daily Herald Staff Writer
They offer cuisine ranging from sandwiches to sushi, service that varies from carryout to sit-down and hours that stretch from before dawn to past midnight.
For all their differences, the two dozen restaurants scattered around Arlington Heights' bustling downtown share a common link - and that's what worries some restaurateurs.
Downtown restaurant operators say all the dining spots serve essentially the same pool of customers. As the number of establishments grows, so do the concerns of some owners that too many restaurants may end up chasing too few customers.
"Even though they (the restaurants) are all different, you have the same people," said Andrea Tsambarlis, owner of the Riviera Restaurant. "Eventually, you're sharing the same crowds."
Now comes a proposal to convert the former Arlington Grille into a new, larger restaurant that would serve breakfast and lunch - and compete directly with a number of established downtown dining spots.
Some village officials and other merchants, however, see the planned restaurant as good news, not bad.
They say the cluster of downtown restaurants benefits all the establishments, drawing in diners who will eventually sample a number of different establishments.
"The feeling is a cluster of restaurants won't hurt business," said Sally Ballinger, a village plan commission member and former restaurant operator. "They're niche businesses, they don't compete."
And another similarly sized suburb, Evanston, has found success with a restaurant cluster more than twice the size of the one found in the downtown Arlington Heights.
In Arlington Heights, a proposal by George Zahrapoulos to replace the Arlington Grill with a new 60-seat restaurant requires a market analysis that may help answer the question of whether the downtown area is overflowing with restaurants.
But village officials say that study isn't a sign they're concerned about the size of the downtown restaurant community: it's mandated by village codes for special uses like restaurants.
"We don't regulate competition at all," said Arlington Heights' urban planner John Jackson
Zahrapoulos, who plans to target neighbors and commuters at his proposed restaurant, said he doesn't envision problems in attracting customers.
Other restaurateurs, however, are concerned that the pool of available customers - downtown workers, commuters and those in nearby residential areas - is steady, while the number of restaurants keeps rising. …