Timing is Everything When Listing a Bar for Sale

Posted by Robin Gagnon on Jul 10, 2024 10:30:00 AM


You have greater odds of selling your bar for sale when your timing is right. Sports bars are far more likely to go into contract during football season than in the lazy days of summer when the only game on TV is soccer or baseball.

Market cycles are real when it comes to bars for sale and these can make a difference in not only the pricing but also the number of days spent waiting for a potential buyer. Many sellers make the mistake of trying to “cash in” on the busy season before listing, but that’s a mistake. After all, it will take a period of a few months to sell, so starting early, when the business is packed, is a better option.

Identifying the Best Time to Sell

The peak seasons for listing a bar for sale is when they have the highest traffic. For sports bars, this may be during College Game Days and NFL Sundays. The beer is flowing, the kitchen is busy, and everyone can see themselves behind the counter.

The next best time for listing bars for sale is during March Madness, but once the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball champion is named and the initial 68 teams winnow down to the final four and ultimately, the champion, it’s a much different environment.

For an Irish pub, making sure buyers experience the buzz of St. Paddy’s Day and the impact on business may be enough to generate offers. Other events that can trigger upticks in customers are seasonal events or tourism impact in the area that can affect the customer cycle and thus the timing of listing.

When listing a bar for sale, experienced restaurant brokers should carefully understand the market cycle. A good time for buyers to visit the restaurant as a customer is during the peak times. You never want a potential buyer to see stools at the bar half-filled.

Steps in Selling Bars for Sale:

  • Assemble Up-to-Date and Accurate Financial Records If your accountant is not ready with a standard profit and loss statement shortly after the month ends, it may be best to find a new resource who is up to the task. Delays in providing information can extend the time to closings, and we all know that “time kills deals.” Starting with the end in mind avoids this common issue.

  • Avoid Over Pricing the Bar for Sale, “Just to See” The number one reason your business will not sell is aggressive pricing that is not in line with the earnings. This will more dramatically affect the timing to sell than any other item. If you want the highest possible pricing, your Certified Restaurant Broker can provide you with the path you must take to achieve higher earnings and thus a higher selling price. It’s a risky strategy to overprice the listing as you may lose valuable time when the market is hot and risk more time in the sales process.

  • Confirm Operational Readiness Make sure your bar for sale is running smoothly and appealing to buyers. Make all minor repairs and handle any deferred maintenance so you’re putting your best step forward. A well-maintained and operationally sound bar is far more attractive to potential buyers.

  • Contact a Certified Restaurant Broker for an Opinion of Value
    A Certified Restaurant Broker will be able to tell you the accurate listing price and timing for selling a bar for sale. He or she will have the experience and expertise to market the business and attract buyers at the right time. Lastly, they will have case studies and examples of others in the market that have relied on their expertise and knowledge to time their exit from the business. Interview multiple brokers and understand what they bring to the table in terms of knowledge and experience before deciding. 

    ➡️Click here for our Cheat Sheet for Hiring a Restaurant Broker.

  • Be Available for Due Diligence
    Make sure that you are working with your restaurant broker on a checklist that covers every element of transferring your bar for sale to new ownership. Stay on top of timelines and deliver the expected items to make sure there is no delay in the process. This step is crucial for maintaining buyer confidence and ensuring a smooth transition.

  • Anticipate Buyer Requests
    Since lending on bars for sale is more limited than on traditional restaurants, be prepared to discuss terms and conditions of a seller note or some form of seller financing. While it is not always the case that a buyer will seek this option, it’s best to know up front what you are willing to consider and have discussions with your attorney about protections. Then, if the topic is raised, you don’t waste valuable time getting answers to your questions.

  • Keep Operating at Peak Performance
    No matter when you are presented with an offer on your bar for sale and accept it, you must continue to operate at peak performance. Buyers can get scared and even walk from the deal if you start operating fewer hours or significantly alter operations in some way. Keep running your business at peak levels and know that the timing is nearly right for you to move to your next adventure.

  • Prepare for Closing
    Be certain that all keys, passwords, schedules, training, and maintenance records are available for the buyer. Perform an inventory count that you and the buyer agree on. Ensure that the liquor license transfer is being properly handled. Overall, you don’t want delays at the final hour that would keep your bar for sale from transferring smoothly.

Timing is everything when it comes to listing your bar for sale. By understanding market cycles, preparing thoroughly, and working with experienced professionals, you can maximize your chances of a successful sale. Remember, starting early and being ready for every step of the process will set you up for success.

Are you interested in selling your bar? Contact our Certified Restaurant Broker to optimize your selling timing and strategy.

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Robin slug photoRobin Gagnon, Certified Restaurant Broker®, MBA, CBI, CFE, is the co-founder of We Sell Restaurants, a brand that has carved an unparalleled niche in the industry as the nation's leading and only business broker franchise focused on restaurants. Under Robin’s leadership, We Sell Restaurants has grown to 45 states where it dominates the restaurant for sale marketplace, including franchise resales, delivering on the founder’s vision to Sell More Restaurants Than Anyone Else. We Sell Restaurants was named one of the most influential suppliers and vendors in the country by Nation’s Restaurant News and has earned a position on INC 5000’s list of fastest growing privately held companies. Franchisees of We Sell Restaurants surveyed by Franchise Business Review placed it 25th in the nation in franchisee satisfaction.

Robin is the Chair of the Women’s Franchise Committee of IFA and is a member of the IFA Board of Directors. She is also an MBA and Certified Franchise Executive (CFE) and has her CBI (Certified Business Intermediary) designation from the International Business Brokers Association. She co-authored Appetite for Acquisition, a small business book award winner in 2012 and contributes frequently to industry press appearing in Forbes, QSR, Modern Restaurant Management, Franchise Update, and others. She has appeared on The TODAY Show as a restaurant expert and Entrepreneur Magazine has named her to their list of the “Top Influential Women in Franchising.”

Topics: Restaurants for Sale

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