Since its founding in 2009, Meatheads has made its real estate strategy a primary vehicle to communicate the restaurant chain’s values, which extend from the quality of its food to exceptional service and commitment to the wellbeing of the communities it serves.

As a founding partner, Tartan’s brokerage and development teams have driven all of Meatheads’ 17 locations. The chain’s goal is to be the fast casual restaurant of choice for families and Tartan recognizes that the customer experience begins with the location of the restaurant itself. Leveraging its boots-on-the ground approach, potential sites are vetted not only against standard metrics, but also for their position within school districts with active athletics programs, among other measures of local civic pride. Ease of parking and access to and from major traffic thoroughfares are also of primary concern, as one of Meatheads’ main customer segments are mothers with children. While visibility is always important, these other factors are more important when selecting sites.

Although its operations extend from the greater Chicago area into central Illinois and western Indiana, each Meatheads restaurant is keyed to operate as a small business within the community it serves. The interior environment is branded with hyper-local images and the area’s sports teams are tracked on scoreboards. Marketing outreach focuses on youth athletic and literacy initiatives with recognition of area athletes and incentives for young readers, all of which is intended to make the restaurant’s customers feel a sense of belonging and ownership.

As with most start-up restaurant concepts, Meatheads’ brand has evolved over time. Tartan has adjusted its real estate profile to accommodate this. The firm has found that its experience as an owner of a retail chain has influenced its approach to tenant representation. Tartan’s insiders’ perspective on what is most important to owner/operators has helped it provide more nuanced real estate counsel to its clients.