Study shows that not all parklets are created equal

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Originally Published at westphillylocal.com

The numbers are in for “parklets,” those little curbside, pop-up platforms with tables and chairs found outside a few local businesses, and it turns out that people, and businesses, seem to like them.

The University City District studied parklet use in 2013 – observing and counting who used them and how – and released a report this week detailing what they found. The study included six parklets outside the Green Line Cafe on Baltimore Avenue, Honest Tom’s/Lil’ Pop Shop, Fu-Wah Market, Manakeesh Cafe, Little Baby’s Ice Cream in Cedar Park and Ramen Bar at 4040 Locust.

To get the data, the UCD parked an intern at each spot during the operating hours of the host businesses on Tuesdays and Wednesdays in the spring and summer of 2013.

It shows that most of the people who use the parklets are patrons of the “host” businesses (you don’t have to be, but most were). In terms of daily unique users, the Honest Tom’s/Lil’ Pop Shop parklet (which both offer very portable products) saw the most traffic (just over 140 per day) with the Green Line spot second at about 60 visitors. The parklet outside of Manakeesh, which sits curbside along a busy section of Walnut Street got only a few visitors per day.

Use at the Honest Tom’s/Lil’ Pop Shop location spiked at about 2 p.m. and then again at about 6:30 p.m. Green Line’s parklet was busiest at about 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. and Little Baby’s parklet saw most of its daily use between 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. The others spiked during lunch and dinner times. 

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Peak usage of the six parklets. The full UCD study is available here.

User demographics skewed slightly male and most users were in the 18-34 age group. No data was collected regarding race or ethnicity (which is usually self-reported) nor were any observations or anecdotes reported.

It appears that businesses couldn’t be happier about the impact of the parklets on their profit margins. Sales data collected a week or two before the parklets opened compared to after they opened showed an average of a 20 percent increase in sales.

The report concludes that the two biggest predictors of parklet success are:

• “Customer turnover by interior seat” – The more people coming and going who are looking to sit down, the busier the parklet.

• “Building transparency” – Having a clear view of the parklet from inside the restaurant. Large glass facades help out.

Other important factors seem to include “food conducive to onsite consumption,” “population density” (residents within 500 feet), pedestrian traffic, and, kind of ironically, the presence of parking on both sides of the street.

The full report is available here.

– Mike Lyons


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