Restaurants have become popular investments in recent years as busy consumers choose to dine out more frequently—sometimes more than one meal a day. Examining the growth of the industry by its share of consumers’ food dollar and total sales is impressive. The restaurant industry’s share of the food dollar climbed from 25% in 1955 to 51% now, and total US sales have climbed 53% in the past decade to $899 billion, according to the National Restaurant Association. Currently, there are more than 1 million restaurant locations in the United States.
Nevertheless, the industry was negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic that began in March 2020 and led to the closure of many restaurants due to temporary regulations that restricted inside dining. The restaurant industry’s total sales for 2020 were $240 billion less than the National Restaurant Association’s pre-pandemic forecast for the year. Also, more than 110,000 eating and drinking places were closed for business temporarily, or for permanently, as of December 1, 2020.
The pandemic was challenging for restaurants of all sizes, but the companies that fared better tended to be larger franchises that have outlets throughout the country and feature what is described as omnichannel platforms—restaurants that provide several ways for customers to order, pay, and get their meals. Today, consumers desire a consistent experience, no matter the sales channel they use.
Generally, fast food restaurants were able to pivot quickly and adapt to operating during the pandemic. Many fast food restaurants already featured drive-throughs and online ordering with contactless curbside carry-out.
Investing in Restaurants: The Basics
If you’re interested in investing in small restaurants for sale, buying an existing restaurant property can be an excellent option to become a restaurant owner. You can avoid the difficult early years of getting a restaurant off the ground. As with buying a restaurant franchise, you gain instant name recognition and a built-in customer base. Also, you do not have to create a business plan and menu from scratch. But, in a purchase, you inherit both the good and the bad, and it’s crucial to ask the right questions before investing in restaurant properties.
Questions to ask before purchasing a restaurant property:
1. Why Is the owner selling the restaurant?
This is the most critical question—why does the owner want to sell the restaurant if it is successful? Typically, two main reasons cause owners to sell:
- The owners may want to retire, or they may be weary of being their own bosses. Operating a restaurant is a tough job, and the long hours can take a toll. Health complications, family issues, or other personal problems may make some people decide to sell. If it is not working for the owners, you should be confident that you are ready to run it.
- They may not be making sufficient money to meet their costs and want to make the restaurant for sale sooner than later, before incurring a greater loss.
2. How are the restaurant’s financials?
Before you purchase a restaurant, you need to know if it will be a viable business. No matter how much you love that taco place or how successful it seems, you must carefully examine its financials along with the asking price. The due diligence will make you aware of any significant issues from the outset. In fact, if you plan to apply for a small business loan, you must create a detailed outline of the finances for your restaurant business plan.
You and your accountant must scrutinize all the financials, including profit and loss, cash flow statements, balance sheets, bank records, and tax history. Things you should look at include food and beverage sales (monthly and yearly), labor costs, food costs and check averages. Also, look at the cost of utilities, rent, insurance and taxes. Examine existing vendor contracts and the state of any assets (especially equipment) you will be purchasing. Look at the liabilities you would be taking on—to whom will you owe money, how much, and what are the monthly payments?
If an owner refuses to show you the books, do not proceed any further. Anyone serious about selling should provide an accurate picture of the financial health of their restaurant. The owner may ask you to sign a non-disclosure agreement stating that you will not share their information with any other parties.
3. Are There Any Tax Problems or Legal Issues?
Restaurant closures are often due to failure to pay sales or payroll taxes. These obligations compound quickly under government penalties, and you want to avoid these types of problems. Other legalities to look for: unpaid wages, customer lawsuits, back rent, health department citations, and more. It may be wise to hire an attorney to review all public records to avoid these issues.
4. How Is the Location?
Unless you are already familiar with the restaurant for sale, you should research the area and ask yourself several questions to help determine it’s value and fit within your portfolio. Questions including but not limited to: Is the location advantageous, is it located in a busy area? Is the restaurant in a shopping center or is it standalone? Is it visible enough to attract foot traffic and passing cars? Is there sufficient parking? What is the competition like nearby? Have new restaurants opened that might draw business away? What are the future terms of the lease?
Fast Food Restaurant For Sale Opportunities
A profitable way to invest in the restaurant niche is to select a quick-service restaurants AKA fast food restaurants for sale, with a triple net lease (NNN). Due to the great variety of fast food restaurants, investors can choose the property they want to invest in based on location, price, and brand. Choosing a name brand also eliminates the risk of a local restaurant having a poor reputation. There are several reasons why fast food restaurants that are available to buy make great NNN investments, including location, drive thru access, type of business and lease length.
There are more than 200,000 fast food restaurants in the US and, according to Brand Z rankings, and 2018 revenue for the top eight fast-food brands was $229 billion. Entrepreneur and QSR Magazine report that McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Subway are among the top fast food restaurant brands. They have continued to perform well during the pandemic with the advantage of drive thru service, making the industry an excellent place to invest. Fifty million Americans dine at a fast-food restaurant every day. Restaurants like McDonald’s, KFC, Wendy’s, and Starbucks are stable long-term net lease investments with reliable, creditworthy tenants, effortless monthly income, periodic rent increases for 10-15 years, and few or no maintenance responsibilities.
Many restaurant corporations depend on triple net (NNN) leases investors to expand and open new locations, which creates a profitable circumstance for both property owners and the fast-food corporations.
NNN real estate provide a bevy of benefits that enable buyers to continue to work, build a portfolio, or enjoy retirement. To make the most of those benefits, look for high-credit companies that choose total control over their properties and brand image without involvement from the landlord. You also want to make sure the investment provides:
- Low-risk reliability/creditworthy tenant financials and reporting
- Expense-free ownership with stable monthly income
- Corporate-backed lease guarantee for 10-15 years with extension options
- Rental increases during the lease term to offset inflation
- Preservation of wealth and investment diversification
- The chance to build equity over the lease term
1031 Exchange Investors and Restaurants
In addition to NNN investors, 1031 exchange investors are turning to restaurants as replacement properties because these asset types are easy to understand, and buyers like the familiarity with the brands and the ability to their favorite name brand. In addition, restaurants that are clearly growing are particularly attractive, especially since the typical price point (between $2-$3 million) is perfect for individual investors.
The triple net real estate experts at Sands Investment Group have helped investors close deals on many fast food restaurants, including various locations like:
- Steak N’ Shake locations in Indiana and South Carolina
- Starbucks outlets in California, Florida and Arkansas
- Panera Bread locations in California, North Carolina and Virginia
The trusted advisors at Sands Investment Group can bring more to the table than simply identifying properties for you. We can help with existing real estate assets, acquiring new operators or businesses, developing new restaurants, and working to restructure leases to reduce your costs. We have handled one-off deals and acquisitions of multiple restaurant locations to help you obtain the right restaurant for your portfolio. If you have a different net lease property type in mind, we can help. We’ve handled deals on some of the most popular NNN business types including: car washes for sale, gas stations for sale, and many more.
For more information or to begin finding your next restaurant for sale investment, get in touch with Sands Investment Group experts. These advisors can help identify and secure a great opportunity for investment. Call 844.4.SIG.NNN or send us an email to get started.