Three obstacles to selling a restaurant...the three ‘L’s - by Dennis Serpone

April 26, 2019 - Spotlights
Dennis Serpone
New England Restaurant Brokers

It has become quite obvious that the food and beverage industry is experiencing a metamorphosis. Just as the seasons have evolved from the cold and snowy winter into a warming, comfortable, and bright spring consumer confidence is returning. Consumers are back to spending. Old habits die hard; they’re back to flashing those credit cards. High end restaurants are  seeing a brisk business. Additionally, many of the low end fast food places are doing exceeding well although customer-counts are down, and in the mid-range, the casual-dining operators  seem to be struggling. All categories have been effected by  competition, higher commodity prices, and staffing problems.

In today’s market, for those owners who decided to sell, it’s not always about not making enough money. There are a myriad of reasons why an operator puts his business on the market…tired of long hours, wanting to spend more time with the family, partnership disputes, operating costs,  desire for a bigger (or smaller) place, lease/landlord issues. Did I just bring up two of the three ‘L’s (landlords, lawyers & leases)?

As a professional in the real estate industry you know how hard it is to find the right buyer and create the classic win-win deal. Those sometimes are the easiest to do. Once the deal is structured, now you have to deal with the ‘arms-length’ components…the landlord, the lease, and the lawyers.

The landlord sees an opening…you want to sell, you need his cooperation…what’s in it for him? You’re selling the business, his lease is a major part of what you’re selling…he demands to be compensated also. Isn't the lease assignable? Doesn’t matter, the landlord still can drag a deal along until someone yells “uncle”…and he is ‘satisfied’.

The lawyers, as we know, are ‘deal-makers’ or ‘deal-breakers’. Many times, because both parties need their legal expertise, the lawyers take on the cloak of an owner/buyer. They reinvent the deal according to what they perceive the deal should look like…even though they’ve never seen the facility. 

You’ve hired an attorney to represent YOUR interest…the primary directive is to get the deal done quickly before the buyer or seller changes his mind. The problem is that lawyers work on volume and business transfers aren’t difficult and subsequently don’t bring much money to the bottom line…so many times they fall to the bottom of their priority list. Simple deals, a simple Purchase & Sales Agreement that should take a couple of hours to prepare, can take weeks. God forbid that there’s a liquor license involved…now you’re looking at months and months to close a deal.

Fortunately there are commercial real estate brokers who specialize in the sale of restaurants. With over 39 years representing buyers and sellers, developers and franchisors, The National Restaurant Exchange has helped thousands of satisfy their needs. 

“When you have chest pains, you’d run directly to a heart specialist. When your business is hemorrhaging, you need a restaurant specialist.”

Dennis Serpone is the president of New England Restaurant Brokers and The National Restaurant Exchange, Wakefield, Mass.



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JOHN R. PETERSON, Partner-VP, Arakelian Real Estate, Inc. 4/26/19, 4:25 PM

Dennis has accurately detailed the issues or Restaurant sales with or without Real Estate involved. To add to the complexity is the financing, whether it be seller financing or commercial bank financing with or without real estate. It takes an experienced professional and Dennis is my strong recommendation.