Among the top ten cities to start a new restaurant, according to a financial website called NerdWallet.com, are places like Franklin, Tenn., Smyrna, Ga., Frisco, Texas, Milpitas, Calif. and….. Southaven.
The DeSoto County city was recently ranked 10th among American cities for new eateries and a number of franchises are looking to start or expand its market reach into Southaven.
A city with the right makeup and growing retail scene, especially with the addition of the Tanger Outlets mall in November, have spurred interest in being located in Southaven, according to top officials of national chains, either in Southaven already or looking to locate in Mississippi's third-largest community.
Smoothie King and Back Yard Burgers are two franchises that already have a home in Southaven, but Smoothie King official Stephen Foley and Back Yard Burgers CEO David McDougall are both open to additional Southaven locations.
"The demographics for Southaven, and everybody knows this, are booming," Foley said in an interview. "You have the bleed-in from Memphis, you have the industry coming in there and it's such a bright spot for the state. What really motivates us there is the population."
McDougall said the Southaven Back Yard Burgers has been one of the franchise's top-performing restaurants since it opened about 15 years ago.
"There's expendable money to go out and dine out and people clearly seem to enjoy doing that," McDougall said. "The people who spend their hard-earned money you hope will leave happy and will be willing to come back."
One national chain in the process of finding a Southaven location is Famous Toastery, a North Carolina-based franchise which CEO and co-founder Robert Maynard calls a "higher-end type of breakfast, brunch, lunch-bunch type of establishment."
"We are the antithesis of the 'greasy spoon,'" Maynard said. "We serve things like lobster daily, which we fly in from Maine every day. All of our salad dressings are made in-house every day. Everything you eat that day was made that morning."
Maynard said the first Memphis-area Famous Toastery will soon open in the Germantown area but Southaven is next in line.
"We hope to have an announcement on a location sometime in 2016," Maynard said.
Southaven Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Carmen Kyle said customers are hungry for new options.
"The demand is high and supply is low," Kyle said. "There are lines out the door every weekend of wait times for people wanting to eat out, whether it would be tourists coming to the area or residents wanting to take their families out to eat. There are just not enough eateries in Southaven."
Kyle supported Foley's comments that the city's demographic makeup will aid the startup of a new restaurant, franchise or otherwise.
"Our median income is more that $20,000 more than the state average and Southaven's median age is 36 years old," Kyle said. "The bottom line is a restaurant that is looking at Southaven, Mississippi is looking at that. They are looking at what their sales can produce in the coming years. There are a lot more people eating out nowadays."
Jerry Bird of FranNet, a top leader in franchise ownership opportunities, called Southaven a wonderful market for several types of retail possibilities, not just in restaurants.
"The demographics of Southaven, especially for Mississippi, are to die for," Bird said. "It's a higher household income that most of Mississippi has to offer and in a lot of demographics, Southaven is top of the charts."
Bob Bakken is Staff Writer and may be reached at 662-429-6397 ext. 240.