Note: This article was originally published in August 2015, but includes updated information as of May 13, 2016
When it comes to the Inver Grove Heights restaurant and grocery store wish list, there are always going to be varying opinions on what the best additions would be. But some of the most popular restaurants people mention include Chipotle, Taco Bell, Wendy’s, Red Lobster, Olive Garden and Buffalo Wild Wings. That list varies from person-to-person and there is never going to be a master list everyone agrees on. But we’ve been working hard to find out the scoop with some of these restaurants and to learn about their plans and if they would include Inver Grove Heights.
1. Focus is on remodeling current Taco Bells
As for Taco Bell, that restaurant chain won’t be coming to Inver Grove Heights anytime soon. Wednesday, Barry Zellickson, Senior Vice President of Border Foods Companies, which owns and operates Minnesota’s Taco Bell franchises, said this: “That is not a location we have on our current schedule,” said Zellickson.
Zellickson referenced they are focusing on current remodels and upgrades at its existing restaurants at this time versus expansion into cities like IGH. Border Foods, Inc. owns and operates franchisees of Taco Bell restaurants in Minnesota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
2. IGH lacks a central business hub – too spread out
One restaurant industry professional has referenced the fact that Inver Grove Heights does not have one central business hub as the center of activity as the reason restaurants like Taco Bell – or other restaurants, grocery stores and/or retail shops, fail to come to the city. The business districts are spread out, this consultant said, referencing Cahill Avenue, the Arbor Pointe district, Upper 55th and Highway 52 and the new development near Target/Argenta Hills. There is no definitive location that serves as hub of activity that is holding franchises back, the consultant said. West Saint Paul has the hustle and bustle and daytime business traffic that makes it work on Robert Street. Eagan has the Yankee Doodle district with access to Highway 35E and Woodbury is the largest city in Washington County with over 60,000 people – nearly double that of Inver Grove Heights. Inver Grove Heights does not have any of that, so comparisons to what other surrounding communities have are not an accurate comparison, this consultant mentioned, saying residents can’t base the fact that a neighboring city has a restaurant and that we want it as good enough reasons for them to come to The Grove.
3. Better opportunities for success in bigger cities – nationwide
In the Eat IGH article Analysis: 5 reasons popular restaurants won’t come to Inver Grove Heights, franchise consultant Mike Welch said “Remember, when these companies are considering expansion, IGH isn’t just competing with other Twin Cities communities, it’s competing with every other city in the USA.”
4. Lack of day time business traffic
Jen Helm, an Inver Grove Heights resident and rock star in the commercial real estate industry, also said this on a recent Facebook post: “Restaurants and retailers pass over IGH because we have little daytime traffic (office and industrial properties with an abundance of employees) and our lot sizes on the south end of town don’t promote density, which retailers need rooftops in order to survive. We won’t attract retailers until the city attracts office and industrial developers and business.”
5. Taco Bell real estate consultant: Never say never – but not now
Welch expanded on his comments saying this on Thursday: “When someone purchases a franchise in the cities they will have a choice of territories and it sounds like people are just not choosing IGH as the city they want to open in.”
As Zellickson pointed out, last August, the current franchisee group is not looking at IGH as a possible option.
One member of the Taco Bell real estate team did say IGH has been considered, but in the end, they didn’t see enough population density and daytime traffic to feel Inver Grove Heights would be a viable place for a Taco Bell to succeed. This member was looking at a map of IGH from his office in another state, and knew everything about IGH – population, key economic indicators restaurants and franchises uses to determine where to do business, and an analysis of the IGH business scene. He did say “Taco Bell should be there,” but then added “the current group of owners doesn’t think it’s a location where they could succeed so at this time Taco Bell won’t be opening in IGH.”
We asked, does that mean it will never happen. He said “Never say never, but not for a while, if ever.”
So it looks like when we need that Taco Bell crave, we will continue to need to make a run to the border – the border of IGH and head out to West Saint Paul, Eagan or Woodbury, that is.