How the Fast-Casual Boom Is Changing the Restaurant Real Estate Game

Competition is fierce for restaurant real estate all across the country. But one type of restaurant space has proven particularly elusive: one with a small-ish footprint that’s ideal for fast-casual dining. Everyone from national chains to locally owned fast-casuals to independent restaurateurs seeks out these types of spaces, ranging from about 1,500 to 2,500 square feet — imagine a Chipotle or a Chop’t. In Portland, Oregon, where local fast-casual concepts like Lardo and Little Big Burger have sprung up in recent years, restaurateurs call the offices of the brokerage firm Urban Works three to four times a day asking for second-generation restaurant spaces about that same size.

The fast-casual boom has driven lease rates for these spaces to astounding levels nationwide.

The hunt is just as difficult in Washington, DC. Two years ago, when chef Mike Isabella was looking to expand his popular sandwich shop G, competition for

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