Best and Worst Places to Open a Restaurant

The Restaurant Growth Index, ranking the best markets for new restaurants

Tourism remains the strong driver of restaurant traffic and opportunity. As the 2014 Restaurant Growth Index—compiled exclusively for Restaurant Business by Nielsen—shows, consumers continue to loosen their purse strings and indulge in restaurant dining while on vacation.

5 best places to open a restaurant

  • 1. Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina, HI
  • 2. Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV
  • 3. Kapaa, HI
  • 4. Findlay, OH
  • 5. Sevierville, TN

5 worst places to open a restaurant

  • 1. Los Alamos, NM
  • 2. Sunbury, PA
  • 3. Boone, IA
  • 4. North Vernon, IN
  • 5. Malvern, AR

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Metro area State RGI value Ranksort descending Population Per capita income Restaurant sales per capita Sales as percentage of income Total restaurants Sales per restaurant Persons per establishment
Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina HI 506 1 160,528 $28,264.76 $4,887.61 17.29% 509 $1,541,451.87 315
Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise NV 445 2 2,034,918 $22,702.10 $3,586.19 15.80% 4,920 $1,483,252.64 414
Kapaa HI 425 3 69,324 $24,993.44 $4,300.42 17.21% 229 $1,301,842.79 303
Findlay OH 419 4 76,343 $24,381.61 $3,647.73 14.96% 189 $1,473,433.86 404
Sevierville TN 364 5 94,205 $20,319.04 $4,158.49 20.47% 418 $937,203.35 225
Effingham IL 327 6 34,427 $27,344.53 $4,361.37 15.95% 139 $1,080,208.63 248
Liberal KS 319 7 23,935 $18,467.31 $2,992.65 16.21% 69 $1,038,101.45 347
Ocean City NJ 301 8 95,738 $29,852.70 $5,566.53 18.65% 626 $851,322.68 153
Gardnerville Ranchos NV 300 9 48,009 $32,510.31 $3,911.70 12.03% 143 $1,313,265.73 336
Urban Honolulu HI 289 10 991,018 $28,775.74 $3,315.14 11.52% 2,487 $1,321,015.28 398
Starkville MS 289 11 48,696 $20,438.64 $3,435.17 16.81% 185 $904,210.81 263
Greenwood MS 286 12 40,093 $14,041.10 $2,546.28 18.13% 123 $829,983.74 326
Reno NV 278 13 439,764 $25,666.19 $2,981.51 11.62% 1,041 $1,259,519.69 422
Tifton GA 277 14 41,163 $19,653.75 $2,637.54 13.42% 100 $1,085,690.00 412
Boone NC 275 15 53,083 $21,096.25 $3,725.67 17.66% 241 $820,622.41 220
Mount Vernon IL 274 16 38,612 $24,304.62 $3,742.64 15.40% 154 $938,383.12 251
Cullowhee NC 265 17 40,870 $19,435.28 $3,970.39 20.43% 238 $681,806.72 172
Lake City FL 264 18 68,841 $16,301.66 $2,381.72 14.61% 172 $953,255.81 400
Hilo HI 262 19 191,916 $20,949.80 $2,734.19 13.05% 497 $1,055,802.82 386
Oxford MS 261 20 50,975 $26,791.76 $3,637.90 13.58% 183 $1,013,344.26 279
Berlin NH-VT 261 21 37,875 $22,406.40 $5,045.57 22.52% 313 $610,546.33 121
Carson City NV 259 22 55,359 $25,892.00 $2,967.83 11.46% 138 $1,190,550.72 401
Middlesborough KY 256 23 27,627 $15,061.62 $2,930.72 19.46% 117 $692,025.64 236
Grenada MS 255 24 21,616 $17,742.88 $2,933.80 16.54% 78 $813,038.46 277
Pecos TX 248 25 13,881 $13,963.15 $3,769.61 27.00% 108 $484,500.00 129
Salisbury MD-DE 248 26 387,124 $27,918.40 $3,593.12 12.87% 1,373 $1,013,097.60 282
Cordele GA 246 27 23,584 $17,784.41 $2,849.05 16.02% 83 $809,542.17 284
Panama City FL 246 28 189,684 $24,003.16 $3,552.27 14.80% 771 $873,940.34 246
Branson MO 239 29 84,704 $20,248.48 $3,329.28 16.44% 369 $764,235.77 230
Charleston-Mattoon IL 236 30 64,327 $22,119.68 $2,987.05 13.50% 209 $919,368.42 308
Hattiesburg MS 235 31 149,110 $21,420.28 $2,760.55 12.89% 428 $961,740.65 348
Carbondale-Marion IL 235 32 126,571 $22,449.10 $3,216.45 14.33% 472 $862,519.07 268
Atlantic City-Hammonton NJ 226 33 276,016 $25,518.38 $3,040.99 11.92% 839 $1,000,431.47 329
Taos NM 225 34 32,597 $22,875.72 $4,743.53 20.74% 271 $570,571.96 120
Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford FL 221 35 2,277,414 $23,028.34 $2,512.61 10.91% 5,373 $1,065,002.61 424
Crestview FL 219 36 256,755 $27,368.51 $3,288.41 12.02% 881 $958,360.95 291
Kill Devil Hills NC 218 37 39,086 $29,239.18 $5,016.78 17.16% 293 $669,235.49 133
Henderson NC 217 38 45,323 $16,997.00 $2,313.84 13.61% 125 $838,960.00 363
Bangor ME 215 39 153,466 $22,190.94 $3,601.17 16.23% 793 $696,919.29 194
Nacogdoches TX 214 40 66,811 $20,424.41 $2,529.15 12.38% 186 $908,467.74 359
Laurel MS 212 41 85,497 $20,602.07 $2,457.24 11.93% 224 $937,888.39 382
Sault Ste. Marie MI 212 42 39,131 $18,973.83 $3,642.92 19.20% 245 $581,840.82 160
Watertown-Fort Drum NY 212 43 123,111 $21,028.36 $2,462.27 11.71% 318 $953,248.43 387
Valdosta GA 211 44 147,384 $17,193.28 $2,195.52 12.77% 372 $869,849.46 396
Arkadelphia AR 210 45 22,867 $18,636.35 $3,151.44 16.91% 110 $655,127.27 208
Key West FL 210 46 75,044 $32,200.41 $4,674.88 14.52% 460 $762,656.52 163
Statesboro GA 209 47 73,414 $17,897.85 $2,394.30 13.38% 214 $821,378.50 343
Myrtle Beach-Conway SC-NC 208 48 406,529 $21,394.43 $3,137.13 14.66% 1,710 $745,808.77 238
Maryville MO 206 49 23,392 $17,586.14 $3,203.15 18.21% 126 $594,666.67 186
Tupelo MS 206 50 140,901 $19,832.45 $2,726.43 13.75% 488 $787,206.97 289

Pages

Source: Nielsen

How we rank the markets

The Restaurant Growth Index is designed to help restaurants screen markets and find attractive areas for expansion and growth. The market rankings represent underserved areas that signal strong restaurant sales relative to the national average. The RGI ranks both metropolitan (core urban area population of 50,000 or more) and micropolitan (urban core of at least 10,000 but less than 50,000) areas. Each area consists of one or more counties encompassing the core urban area while integrating adjacent counties that have a high degree of social and economic similarities.

The RGI uses restaurant sales collected by the U.S. Census of Retail Trade and per-capita income reported by the U.S. Census Bureau and updated by Nielsen. Restaurant-location data comes by way of Nielsen through Infogroup. Sales figures conflate visitors and residents of each market. So, smaller markets that are tourist destinations with high transience and heavy through traffic tend to index high. Market size should be considered in addition to market rank in assessing opportunities for future restaurants. The RGI formula:

Note: The national average is 100. Higher scores signal better opportunities; scores dipping below 100 suggest weaker opportunities than average. Markets are scored as whole. All markets, when scrutinized at lower levels of geography (i.e., ZIP codes), show pockets of better and worse opportunities.