Total Food Service sat down with Ami Ziff, Director, National Retail at Time Equities Inc. to discuss the current state of the retail real estate marketplace and his views on how this impacts the foodservice and hospitality industries in the future.
Could you please share with our readers how you got into the real estate industry?
I have a very successful uncle who is in the commercial real estate business based out of Charleston, SC (where I attended college) who got me started and taught me the business. He was quite generous with his time and I learned a great deal from him.
How long have you been in the business for? How big is your team?
I got my South Carolina real estate license in 2004 and began working as an analyst for Eastrock Properties thereafter. My current team consists of four individuals in New York and over 100 folks (managing agents/leasing brokers) located around the country, who are typically proximate to each asset.
You have a wide portfolio from warehouses to office condos, how do you guys handle restaurant listing? Does the process change?
We utilize the same basic principles to lease a 1,500 SF space in Georgia as we do a 10,000 SF urban restaurant – hardwork, cold-calling, networking and creative thinking.
What are some restaurants that you have done business with that have been successful?
In the City, a good example is Delmonico’s Steakhouse as we own the building in which they lease space. Around the country and particularly in the southeast, I would say Chick-Fil-A has a tremendous draw. We have a very prominent restaurant in one of our neighborhood centers in St Louis called “The Tavern Kitchen and Bar”
We always hear location, location, and location. What are your insights on this from the real estate side? Is it even true anymore?
Location is absolutely important. When acquiring properties, we look for assets in high traffic areas, proximate to a growing population base with strong curb appeal and increasing tenant sales.
How do you determine the worth of a restaurant?
There are a variety of factors to consider, but we typically review market comps and the potential revenue of a given restaurant in a specific property.
Can you tell us a little more about your greengineering service?
Our VP of TEI Greengineers, Maya Camou, would be pleased to talk about the TEI Greengineers program. In the meanwhile, please see the comprehensive website developed for this aspect of our business: teigreen.com
What brought a Boston guy to NYC?
I believe potential to learn and grow one’s career in NYC is unparalleled. Plus, it’s too cold in Boston.
What makes Time Equities different from your competitors?
We focus on the basics and communicate often with our tenants. We try to do a lot of listening so we can provide a high level of service to our tenants.
Give us your perspective of why/when a landlord will need a restaurant in property.
Restaurants and entertainment uses (experiential concepts) are driving traffic to brick & mortar retail. In addition to the traffic draw, the restaurant and service sectors are not portable and therefore insulated from the threat of growing online sales.
First was Meat Packing District, then Brooklyn, what’s the next hot area?
I wouldn’t underestimate Midtown West / Hell’s Kitchen area by the Hudson Yards.
What impact does the Internet have on commercial real estate? Does it make restaurants more valuable to landlords?
Absolutely. There have been countless articles criticizing brick & mortar retail, especially enclosed malls. This negative tone has put pressure on the mall REITs to prune their portfolios of smaller, less productive assets amidst a dearth of buyers growing in the space. The dislocation has presented an opportunity for firms with an optimistic view on brick & mortar retail and the expertise to run these assets.
In addition to expanding our national portfolio of strip centers which is comprised of 105 retail assets spanning 24 states, Time Equities is in contract to acquire our fifth enclosed mall and is actively pursuing opportunities to grow our mall/outlet platform. TEI believes not all segments of retail are portable and as such, brick & mortar will always remain relevant. The following are a few reasons why we like retail centers:
- The social aspect
- The immediacy factor
- Omni-Channel (Brick& Mortar and Online)
- Sustainability Benefits
- Not all clothing is created equal (Tough to buy online if one doesn’t know their size)
- Stores represent branding opportunities
- Retailers often seeing better margin in-store versus online (after costs to deliver goods)