When more people move downtown and the Arts District becomes more established, opportunities will increase to expand Downtown Trenton’s dining scene. Trenton’s restaurants currently tend to cater to the weekday office worker, closing before 5:00. However, the arts and culture industry tends to be more active in the evening hours and on weekends and residents come home to work after 5:00. This activity will broaden the time during which downtown food and drink establishments can attract customers. As the City starts working to better diversify the downtown, it should begin to position itself to better capture this opportunity.
The primary challenge regarding new restaurants, however, is the prohibitive start-up costs due to expensive equipment, which can inhibit restaurant start-up and growth activity. Financing for restaurant improvements can be difficult, and the failure rate of individual restaurant operators is generally high. Slowly building a downtown restaurant fund could help ease the risk of opening restaurants and stimulate investment.
The City’s role should be assisting with initiating and administering the program and securing funding for a revolving fund that could be offered to prospective downtown restaurateurs. To finance the restaurant fund, the City should consider local banks with that already have relationships with as a result of other programs. The City should also identify key downtown restaurant ventures in which to invest the funds. In addition, the program should be promoted on the Economic Development Division’s website.