If You Want to Keep Your Restaurant, Be Ready to Sell It
By Bruce Hakutizwi
Running a successful restaurant is a notoriously time-consuming affair. Successful restaurant owners often thrive on the long days and short nights that define their fulfilled dreams. If that describes you, you may have never even considered when, how, or even if you want to sell your restaurant at some point down the road. Selling could be the furthest thing from your mind, especially if the restaurant is doing well and you’re having fun running it.
But the reality is that every business owner should be prepared to sell their business at any time, and there are at least two excellent reasons why:
- If your restaurant is always sellable, you’re in the driver’s seat if a prospective buyer comes along with an unexpected offer in hand.
- If you always run your restaurant like it’s on the market, you can be confident it’s running at maximum efficiency, from the hosting staff to the supply room out back.
Both of these reasons are compelling enough on their own to intrigue even the most content restaurant owner, because even if a sale never materializes, your business will consistently be running as smoothly as possible. With that in mind, let’s look into some practical ways you can make sure your business is always sellable, whether you’re thinking of selling your restaurant or not:
Being ready for an unexpected offer
Operating a successful restaurant can be all-consuming, even if you’re having fun doing it. Practically speaking, just fighting the fires that started today and doing your best to prevent the ones you know are going to start tomorrow can get in the way of long-term, strategic decision making.
But if you give yourself a moment to step back and consider the big picture, it’s clear that strategic planning is vital to long-term success. Financial security for your and your family’s future and the chance at a long and fulfilling retirement are just a few of the reasons the strategic decisions you make today matter years down the road.
Being prepared for the possibility of getting an unexpected purchase offer for your restaurant can dramatically improve your strategic focus, making it easier for you to “strike while the iron is hot,” instead of letting a great opportunity pass you by.
Being prepared requires more than just thinking about the possibility of an offer appearing someday. You need to give serious consideration to obtaining a professional valuation of your restaurant and keeping that valuation up to date as time goes on. You also need to consider what sort of profit you’d need to make from a sale to achieve your future goals and make selling the restaurant a realistic and attractive option for you.
If you haven’t put the time and energy into answering these and other vital questions ahead of time, you’ll likely find an unexpected offer to be overwhelming. This may cause you to completely miss the opportunity for a sale, or conversely, to rush into a sale when the opportunity presents itself, and later realize it was the wrong decision.
To avoid these possibilities, every restaurant owner would do well to begin planning now to learn the true value of their business and define exactly what a potential purchase offer would need to look like in order to say “yes.”
Similarly, approach any other necessary questions or concerns as if you were considering putting the restaurant up for sale, and enlist a professional to learn all the answers you need to know. Doing so puts you in the best possible negotiating position should an offer come along, and it allows you to respond to that offer quickly and confidently.
Run your restaurant so it’s always attractive to buyers
If you consider the example of homeowners who are trying to sell their house, you’ll recognize the need to make sure your restaurant always looks, feels, and operates at its very best, just in case a potential buyer happens to stop in, or even just walk by.
To make sure no opportunity is missed, homeowners concentrate on keeping everything looking its best so their home will catch a buyer’s eye and nothing will stop them from calling the number on the for-sale sign and setting up an appointment. Likewise, if you’re running your restaurant as if it’s always on the market, you’re going to be aware of both its curb appeal and how it’s performing financially, just as a prospective buyer would. Viewing your restaurant through the eyes of a buyer will help you stay focused on those factors that are most important are to them.
Approaching day-to-day business in this way will have an impressive impact on how your restaurant operates. It’s likely you’ll find most (if not all) of the following taking place:
- Increased cash flow
- Improved customer service
- More positive reviews and referrals
- Better brand reputation and recognition
- A streamlined business model that’s easy to duplicate
- A skilled and engaged workforce
If you’re trying to sell your business, you’ll naturally focus on all of these areas because they form the foundation of a business that’s worth buying. But they’re also going to make your restaurant successful, profitable, and enjoyable to operate.
Finally, consider this: in today’s ultra-competitive market, can you really afford NOT to ensure your restaurant is running at top form every day? If you’re not sure how you would respond to an unsolicited buyer offer for your restaurant, now is the time to think about and prepare for that possibility — even if you want to keep it.
About the Author:
Bruce Hakutizwi is an expert on entrepreneurship and buying and selling businesses. He is the U.S. and international manager of BusinessesForSale.com, a global online marketplace for buying and selling small- and medium-sized businesses. Bruce regularly writes about entrepreneurship and small business management.