Restaurant Buyers in Today’s Market – Recent Survey Results

Posted by Robin Gagnon on Aug 6, 2020 6:23:07 PM


The International Business Brokers Association (IBBA) recently completed their quarterly survey of business brokers titled “Market Pulse.” We Sell Restaurants compared the findings of this survey (which we participated in) with our national results for restaurant buyers. This is what we found.

Red Cakes and Dessert Restaurant Deals _ Promo and Deliveries Instagram Post

Deals are taking place, but they may be slower to close.

The Market Pulse survey revealed that 36% of the deals in progress had been delayed. The delays are mostly on the buyer side (44%) with seller issues leading to 26% of the delays and bank financing issues slowing deals 24% of the time. For our restaurant buyers, we are also seeing delays as well. Many of the slowdowns faced in hitting the closing table can be tied to bank financing since lenders are dealing with time constraints on multiple fronts; first from continuing to service PPP loans which are still being issued and with the pressure to close SBA transactions by 9/30 which is the last date they will qualify for the six months of free lending provided for in the CARES Act.

Deal cancellations are down only 5 percentage points from 1st Quarter

Restaurant buyers and those seeking any form of Main Street business transaction (typically referred to as businesses valued at under $2 million) were cancelled based on the survey results 16% of the time. When that number is compared to first quarter (Pre-COVID), the cancellation rate was 11%. That differential of just five percentage points is powerful and tells us restaurant buyers are staying committed to close at similar rates than before the virus.

COVID19 is not the only Factor Affecting Transactions

Business brokers surveyed revealed that 91% of those surveyed said the virus was having either an extremely negative or moderately negative impact on business. That is not the only factor however, as 90% believe state shutdowns are negatively impacting current market conditions. More than four in ten (42% of brokers) say Riots are negatively impacting business and one in three (34%) say protests are negatively impacting market conditions. The full results are shown in the table below.


As a national firm, We Sell Restaurants is seeing similar impact from our restaurant buyers. We are being contacted by restaurant buyers seeking to move away from states facing stronger state shutdowns and higher levels of riots and protests as they seek opportunities elsewhere.

Restaurant Buyer Profiles Diverge from Conventional Survey

In general, the customer of We Sell Restaurants is a restaurant buyer making a purchase of less than $500,000. IBBA says these buyers share the following characteristics:

  • First Time Buyers (45%), serial entrepreneurs (30%), or existing companies (20%)
  • Motivated to buy a job (47%), gain a horizontal add-on (25%)
  • Located within 20 miles (72%) or more than 100 miles (16%) of the seller’s location

This is where restaurant buyers diverge from the IBBA survey. For our firm, we see fewer existing companies acquiring businesses and more serial entrepreneurs have jumped in the game in the last three months. First time restaurant buyers have pulled back during the short term but those in the business for a while, (which count in the investor or serial entrepreneur ranks) are confident in the industry’s return and are investing rapidly.

Those buying a job which ranked at 47% in the IBBA survey is over-represented relative to our restaurant buyers. We have been dealing with higher net worth individuals who are seeking an investment rather than a paycheck. Those buying a job have been on the sidelines, in part, this Restaurant Broker believes, due to the CARES Act extra $600 per week in unemployment benefits. These buyers have been cashing in on benefits for several months and we anticipate they will re-enter the market now that the incentive has run out and Congress has failed to make a deal to renew.

Lastly, we are seeing more movement from restaurant buyers, from high “lockdown” states. It is early so we are not sure if this will result in more deals done with buyers more than 100 miles from the current seller’s location, but initial indications are that buyers are moving with their money.

That is a recap of recent survey results compared to restaurant buyers we are working with at We Sell Restaurants. For information on our restaurant for sale listings, follow this link.

Topics: Restaurant COVID19 Advice

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