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DETROIT-The city needs to work harder at master planning, and bring in more residents, to encourage restaurants to move into the Downtown area, says a food-service expert. The Motor City just can’t compete with cities such as Chicago, or even its own suburbs, when it comes to bringing in new eateries, says Jerry McVety, president of McVety and Associates Inc. of Farmington Hills.

His firm acts as consultants for food-service and hospitality companies.

“They have a riverfront down there. They could be doing a lot better than they are,” McVety tells GlobeSt.com. “The lack of foot traffic after 5 p.m. is definitely a problem in Downtown Detroit.”

He described the process of gauging a successful restaurant is how many “turns” it has daily. A turn is how many times every seat is filled.

“I’m sure there are some restaurants like Opus in Detroit that has three or four turns a day, but that just doesn’t happen on a consistent basis for most of the restaurants Downtown,” McVety says.

Detroit eateries only do about one turn a day, he reports.

McVety adds the only way an urban area can attract restaurants is to have good office and residential pockets. Right now, the city boasts new entertainment venues such as two $500-million stadiums, Ford Field and Comerica Park, and the three temporarycasinos. There was talk when construction began for these venues that national destination chains such as Hard Rock Cafe and/or Planet Hollywood would arrive Downtown soon after. However, there has been little new restaurant action.

McVety says stadiums do draw people Downtown, but only for certain times of the year. Also, the casino’s job is to keep people inside and gambling, not walking outside looking for a bite.

“You can’t just attract restaurants with entertainment or sports,” McVety says. “You have to have rooftops, or enough restaurants in a small area, near a cluster of offices, where workers would consider stopping there instead of driving home to the suburbs to eat at 5 p.m.”

He says property owners need to offer incentives to restaurants, like free rent for a few months, to attract projects. Also, city officials need to consider clusters of offices and residential in master plans, areas that would encourage dining establishments to set up shop.

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