Advice for Buying a Restaurant and Selling a Restaurant

Three Rules for Buying a Restaurant Franchise Every Buyer Should Know

Posted by Robin Gagnon on Mar 29, 2018 7:26:16 AM

Every would-be restaurant franchise owner dreams of opening the next big franchise winner but the likelihood is low. Here the Restaurant Brokers advice for getting the best deal when buying a restaurant franchise.

What are the odds of building a successful restaurant from the ground up and lasting three years? According to a hospitality management professor who studied failure rates, it’s less than 40%. A professor at Ohio State University authored a study that found 57% of all newly opened franchises didn’t last beyond 36 months. That’s only slightly better than independent restaurants that experienced a failure rate of 61%.

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Does this mean you should avoid buying a restaurant franchise altogether? No. An open and operating unit for sale represents a great value if you know when to buy and how much to pay. This article lays out the pitfalls of buying a restaurant franchise. Our full series will teach you our three rules for buying a restaurant franchise every buyer should know.

The books and records of an established restaurant franchise for sale are the true picture of its earnings. If you want a business that’s beaten the odds of surviving the three year mark; look at buying a restaurant franchise that’s three years old with repeated years of earnings. If a brand gets your attention because you’re a raving fan, are convinced it’s the next big thing or the food gets high marks, by all means pursue your dream. If you want to pursue that dream while making the most money, the Restaurant Brokers will teach you our “Rule of Three” for buying a Restaurant Franchise.

Here’s the typical story of a new operator. The restaurants brokers have seen this exact scenario hundreds of times. A new owner learns of a concept and is instantly excited about the potential and ready to build from scratch. A new build out for the simplest sandwich concept can easily cost the new operator $350,000 or more. Add in full service, specialized equipment, or a large space and this can quickly top the million dollar mark – before you open the door and make the first dollar.

Eager to experience his success, our hypothetical entrepreneur is sure he’s on the way to making millions. A simple review of the math however shows he’s paying franchise fees of more than 8%, marketing fees of 2%, and rent of 10 - 12% all before he buys the food and serves his first chicken wing and beer at an average check price of $12.00. After that first tough year or so he calls a restaurant broker to ask how much his business is worth. He’s not happy to learn that with a money losing operation, the most he can expect is about 25% of what he’s invested or roughly $125,000. That’s if he has a good franchise concept and a strong site.

A smart restaurant buyer picks up the pieces of the franchise and becomes owner number two. He’s still losing money but he only paid around $100,000 so his cost to acquire is much lower and the debt service is either very low or zero because he paid cash.

Our new entrepreneur is in year two so his sales are beginning to catch up with his fixed costs. By working hard at the business and operating it himself, he can probably go from losing money to making money. By the way, both owners have paid the franchise many thousands of dollars in royalties and marketing fees this entire time even while they lost money.

Another year into the business, this smart buyer realizes he didn’t get such a great deal after all. He’s in the black but when he adds up the time in the business against his return, he’s making less than the federal minimum wage. He calls the restaurant brokers to list the business. Sales have developed to the point that all fixed costs are covered and he’s in the black. With add backs, he’s earning $35,000 or so a year. Priced at three times earnings, it goes on the market for $115,000 and he nets $99,000.

This is when buyer number three steps in and hits his stride on this offering. He gets the deal when he is buying the restaurant franchise. The business is now valued on earnings, not hype. The sales cycle has matured and all costs are covered. Buyer number three has a real opportunity in his hands. He owns a good franchise brand. Sales are still growing and he is operating in the black. Since he didn’t overpay, the cost of repayment is minimal and the business can easily service the debt. While the first two buyers are telling their friends why they would never buy a franchise restaurant, the new owner has never been happier. This business cycle of these restaurant owners demonstrate why you should follow the Restaurant Brokers Rules of Three in Buying Franchise Restaurants.

Rule #1 -- Restaurant buyers never want to be first or second to own. Number three’s the lucky winner.

Rule #2 -- Buy close to the start of year three for the best opportunity. Sales are still trending up and it’s making money. Best of all, there’s still opportunity.

Rule #3 -- Never, ever pay more than three times owner benefit (that’s the amount of earnings plus take home pay for a manager or owner). Hold to that rule no matter how great a pitch you get from the franchise or the owner. Opportunity is a lottery ticket but none of us like the odds.

To see the Restaurant Brokers complete list of franchise restaurants for sale, visit this link online. 

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Topics: Buying a Restaurant