Taryn Brandes’s passion for restaurants and real estate runs deep. Get to know Taryn and how her services can help your organization grow.
By: Taryn Brandes
Taryn Brandes’s passion for restaurants and real estate runs deep. Raised in a real estate family, she grew up in a home full of fantastic cooks and foodies – all involved in the hospitality world in a number of capacities. After a tenure at the commercial real estate brokerage company SCG Retail where she handled tenant representation and expansion roll-outs for i Sweetgreen and Starbucks in NYC, she launched Brand Urban at the start of 2019. Brand Urban is a full-service, national real estate advisory with a focus on food and beverage. The company specializes in real estate brokerage, strategy and consulting for growth-stage brands nationwide, as well, as well as food & beverage project leasing for landlords and developers. Some of her restaurant clients include Don Angie, Quality Eats, Boqueria, Maman, and Yardbird, among many others. Get to know Taryn and how her services can help your organization grow.
Q: First, what is your favorite restaurant in New York City?
Taryn Brandes: Uncle Boons (RIP). My husband and I fell in love with the restaurant’s food, energy and experience from the first moment we stepped foot in the door. It truly embodies everything we love about the food and dining culture in New York City. The news of their closing was so devastating, but we’ve found a way to cope with it as they opened their Thai diner right around the corner. They’re offering the greatest hits off Boons’s menu, so we’re thrilled. Plus, they have a great outdoor seating set-up!
Q: Can you talk about the inspiration for founding Brand Urban?
TB: I have always had a real passion for food and beverage, and during my time with SCG I was introduced to a lot of interesting small-format food and beverage operators and entrepreneurs through various clients, colleagues and friends. Those relationships led me to new relationships, such as Mimi Cheng’s Dumplings, where I helped the Cheng sisters open their first location in the East Village roughly seven years ago. Since then we have opened a second location in the Nolita neighborhood, with a third store coming very soon.
I realized there was a growing need for operators and restaurant companies to have a real estate advisor working on their behalf, the same way that landlord’s have always utilized proper real estate representation and service providers. Since Brand Urban’s inception, the company’s scope of services and clients have expanded, as our tenant slate of services creates a more partnership-like approach. Additionally, we’ve begun working on behalf of landlords and real estate owners on restaurant-anchored assets – continuing to stay true to our focus in the lifestyle retail and F&B space.
Q: How do you know if a restaurant client is a fit for Brand Urban?
TB: I work with brands where I am the core customer, so I have a unique position within the industry – as I dine in their restaurants, I travel to the cities they are looking to expand to, and I belong to their fitness studios, their wellness services, etc. Experiencing these brands and concepts as the target consumer, I have a real ability to identify their competition, as well as understand where their demographic eats, shops, and works.
My clients look to me and my team and ask, “What are you seeing? What are you and your friends doing? What are the trends?” I always work with operators and clients that I believe in, that I consume and understand. It makes me extra passionate about developing successful growth plans for these brands.
Q: What is your approach?
TB: We take a more holistic approach. We start with a deep dive into strategy, both short- and long-term. For instance, what does an operator’s five-year plan look like as they continue to grow and raise capital? We function as an extension of our clients’ corporate team — almost like their in-house real estate arm, as many of my clients do not have one.
Q: You mentioned a deep dive. How deep are we talking?
TB: We take a very deep dive into the restaurant’s brand and business– who are their target customers? What is their business model? Who is their competition? What is their design aesthetic and what are their core values? We study how their stores differ from location to location , how customers differ in each market, who their ideal co-tenants and neighbors are, and what drives traffic to their business.
We then develop a real estate strategy that looks at demographics, psychographics, and core business drivers from tourism, to entertainment, to residential density or even to potential for delivery business.
There is a ton of mapping and analytics that come into play, but I always say that analytics are the science and my job as the real estate advisor is the art. It’s a really fine balance of art and science that makes site selection, real estate strategy, and, ultimately, the negotiations so successful.
Q: Your work seems very rooted in interpreting research and developing a sound, sustainable strategy, but I’m sure you’ve had a chef or operator come to you enamored by a space or location and you’ve had to provide guidance around when it doesn’t make strategic sense.
TB: Absolutely. It happens all the time, as every client and situation is different. There have been times where we find a really special space and my client pivots and creates a concept specifically around the physical bones and characteristics of the location. This is what makes my job so exciting!
Q: It seems like every city or town has at least one location that has had numerous restaurants open and close, over and over. Can restaurant locations be cursed?
TB: Well, there are definitely locations where restaurants have not thrived historically, and this is a genuine question and concern. It amazes me how much my restaurant clients know about the operating history of a former restaurant space.They will know everything about every restaurant that has failed in the space, who the owners were, the chefs were, why it failed, how many times the space has turned over..the list goes on. It is unbelievable.
Sometimes there’s a real reason that a space has had a lot of turnover; it could be the wrong operator or the wrong concept for the neighborhood. For instance, take a cafe and coffee shop located in a strictly residential area where all of the customers leave home bright and early to go to their offices during the day.
But yes, sometimes it is strictly a flaw with the real estate, the location, or even a certain side of the street. However, it is always important to note that what works for one concept might not work for another, and vice versa.
I feel a significant level of responsibility to my clients. This is a big part of my job, so if I personally do not have conviction, I do not push a deal forward.
Q: Restaurants are often seen as pioneers, helping build buzz around certain neighborhoods. What kind of brands can pull that off?
TB: With respect to pioneering a new neighborhood, Michael Stillman, the CEO and founder of Quality Branded restaurants loves to say, “If the restaurant has a certain call to action, you can do something special and really draw people in the door.” Look at Crown Shy in the Financial District, Kings County Imperial in Williamsburg, or Kiki’s in Chinatown. With the right concept, the right operator, or with a unique physical space, there’s always an opportunity to bring something new to a different or underserved area.
Q: Here in 2020, the industry is in a state of flux, especially in New York, to put it mildly. What are your thoughts on the future? Are things looking bright?
TB: Ultimately what’s happening now will eventually pave the way for rents to get lower and for landlords and tenants to deal-make more creatively than ever before — working together as long-term partners. The types of deal structures that will be on the table for restaurants (and retailers) will be stronger than they have been in a very long time. And this will allow for new, interesting tenants and concepts to come back to the market and thrive again.
It’s really horrible because there is going to be so much fallout in the interim, but, for the first time in so long, I believe restaurants will be able to make money again — once the world eventually comes back. It is a long road ahead, but I am optimistic that we will get there. Physical retail, restaurants, and “touch-and-feel” experiences are what keeps our cities alive. There is no future without it.
So, I try to be really positive when I think about that because it is a truth, and I’m already seeing a little bit of it. It’s just the beginning.Back to Blog Posts
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