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 Statesort descending RGI value Rank Population Per capita income Restaurant sales per capita Sales as percentage of income Total restaurants Sales per restaurant Persons per establishment
Anchorage AK 152 146 399,195 $34,294.67 $3,098.96 9.04% 1,399 $884,268.05 285
Fairbanks AK 117 330 101,807 $31,203.16 $2,428.31 7.78% 313 $789,837.06 325
Juneau AK 91 542 33,440 $38,006.80 $2,953.92 7.77% 160 $617,368.75 209
Ketchikan AK 87 581 14,062 $29,271.09 $2,272.65 7.76% 54 $591,814.81 260
Huntsville AL 77 679 439,012 $30,649.88 $1,620.26 5.29% 926 $768,158.75 474
Talladega-Sylacauga AL 77 682 92,189 $16,691.04 $1,217.04 7.29% 202 $555,435.64 456
Selma AL 76 695 42,279 $15,993.40 $1,337.87 8.37% 118 $479,355.93 358
Cullman AL 75 705 80,376 $19,945.54 $1,126.95 5.65% 129 $702,170.54 623
Birmingham-Hoover AL 72 738 1,142,042 $24,882.87 $1,410.41 5.67% 2,402 $670,587.84 475
Albertville AL 70 756 95,813 $22,808.05 $1,333.54 5.85% 203 $629,408.87 472
Valley AL 60 829 34,036 $19,552.61 $1,290.90 6.60% 92 $477,576.09 370
Ozark AL 42 901 50,709 $23,911.93 $947.23 3.96% 86 $558,523.26 590
Anniston-Oxford-Jacksonville AL 134 215 116,414 $19,739.81 $1,705.22 8.64% 243 $816,921.81 479
Dothan AL 118 322 148,919 $22,480.14 $2,246.91 10.00% 539 $620,792.21 276
Florence-Muscle Shoals AL 108 406 146,788 $21,465.46 $1,778.90 8.29% 382 $683,562.83 384
Troy AL 106 420 33,474 $20,102.32 $1,830.17 9.10% 100 $612,630.00 335
Daphne-Fairhope-Foley AL 105 431 196,491 $29,202.67 $2,342.36 8.02% 670 $686,944.78 293
Scottsboro AL 102 457 52,758 $20,858.12 $1,845.35 8.85% 161 $604,701.86 328
Tuscaloosa AL 100 472 235,700 $21,639.74 $1,643.50 7.59% 560 $691,737.50 421
Auburn-Opelika AL 97 492 152,270 $22,049.32 $1,550.75 7.03% 325 $726,563.08 469
Gadsden AL 96 496 104,388 $19,576.70 $1,494.78 7.64% 235 $663,987.23 444
Mobile AL 92 538 414,596 $22,024.86 $1,448.56 6.58% 818 $734,189.49 507
Decatur AL 89 558 154,365 $22,836.39 $1,544.81 6.76% 344 $693,209.30 449
Montgomery AL 88 569 376,745 $23,621.28 $1,548.96 6.56% 824 $708,207.52 457
Enterprise AL 77 675 52,231 $24,424.43 $1,805.15 7.39% 171 $551,374.27 305
Batesville AR 77 676 37,232 $18,556.08 $1,637.14 8.82% 132 $461,772.73 282
Little Rock AR 77 677 728,263 $25,136.48 $1,564.88 6.23% 1,742 $654,215.84 418
Searcy AR 74 721 79,225 $23,091.23 $1,498.29 6.49% 197 $602,548.22 402
Magnolia AR 63 806 24,265 $19,670.00 $1,249.91 6.35% 58 $522,913.79 418
Pine Bluff AR 62 811 95,316 $18,854.86 $1,234.63 6.55% 236 $498,644.07 404
Harrison AR 56 850 45,488 $20,499.69 $1,286.87 6.28% 124 $472,072.58 367
El Dorado AR 52 873 40,209 $20,930.45 $1,260.71 6.02% 111 $456,684.68 362
Blytheville AR 51 880 44,841 $20,061.16 $1,151.33 5.74% 110 $469,336.36 408
Helena-West Helena AR 42 899 19,997 $18,008.95 $999.95 5.55% 50 $399,920.00 400
Camden AR 39 905 30,185 $19,593.42 $1,050.62 5.36% 83 $382,084.34 364
Malvern AR 32 913 33,825 $18,903.40 $588.09 3.11% 37 $537,621.62 914
Arkadelphia AR 210 45 22,867 $18,636.35 $3,151.44 16.91% 110 $655,127.27 208
Forrest City AR 121 299 27,633 $14,090.22 $1,867.98 13.26% 107 $482,411.21 258
Jonesboro AR 88 568 125,937 $21,189.46 $1,502.89 7.09% 289 $654,913.49 436
Mountain Home AR 86 600 40,712 $21,966.74 $2,191.32 9.98% 197 $452,857.87 207
Russellville AR 84 611 85,015 $19,815.27 $1,573.62 7.94% 239 $559,753.14 356
Hot Springs AR 81 637 97,336 $22,331.69 $1,717.63 7.69% 300 $557,290.00 324
Paragould AR 81 641 43,805 $20,107.98 $1,527.57 7.60% 119 $562,310.92 368
Fayetteville AR-MO 70 757 494,447 $24,740.58 $1,498.19 6.06% 1,225 $604,714.29 404
Fort Smith AR-OK 73 730 280,107 $20,380.88 $1,367.31 6.71% 670 $571,629.85 418
Flagstaff AZ 205 52 137,894 $22,833.72 $2,689.38 11.78% 404 $917,945.54 341
Yuma AZ 135 212 201,069 $17,254.13 $1,347.11 7.81% 298 $908,936.24 675
Tucson AZ 131 227 999,461 $23,653.93 $1,730.31 7.32% 1,831 $944,497.54 546
Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale AZ 126 260 4,430,607 $24,252.25 $1,746.21 7.20% 8,406 $920,385.44 527
Show Low AZ 111 375 106,860 $14,670.99 $1,358.02 9.26% 230 $630,947.83 465

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.