Here’s the ‘Deal’
Welcome to a new monthly column meant to walk you through the process of opening a new store, from bright idea to grand opening. Pretty soon, I’ll have done this six times in eight years — even if I can’t say I’ve done it the traditional way. You know what I mean: make a business plan, find a partner and follow the “location, location, location” cliché. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, but I like to think my process is easier and more feasible if you want to open a new store in a short timeframe.
The first step is the deal — nothing more, nothing less — but what does that mean? You want to find a space for your new store that’s the best fit for you, your resources and your goals.
I typically start my search on Craigslist — yes, really — and check commercial real estate sites like LoopNet. At the same time, I’m grabbing the ear of every restaurant broker I can find. You’ll start to get a lot of results and potential properties to visit. Do your research. Check and recheck every property before you even see it in person. Make a list of questions, but be sure to have an answer for these two:
- Why is it for sale? Ideally, I look for restaurateurs that just want out and want to sell their properties as quickly as possible. More specifically, these owners have a pain point — financial issues, they bought their restaurant from a relative and it didn’t work out, etc. Typically, they will give you the best deal. All of my pizzerias previously had an owner with some sort of pain point.
- What’s the history of the building? Part of the right deal is that at some point this property had to be “the spot,” or it was a popular community that drew in patrons from far and wide. Personally, I prefer to buy a store that is already a really busy place. I never want to deal with loyal patrons telling me they like the last place’s food better. That’s why I would rather buy a failing business where the owner just wants out. But I do require that building to have had a very successful restaurant at some point in the past. I want to bring it back to life.
To recap, the right deal for your new property will have an owner with a pain point and be a location that was the happening spot at one time — just not now.
Of course, there’s one missing piece, and it’s a big one: money. Important as it is, the price is the last question I ask after I’m done looking at a restaurant for sale. That’s because I’m not concerned about the restaurant if it’s not the right fit for me.
That doesn’t mean money is not a factor, of course. The final question to ask is: will the owner finance the deal? And that’s what we’ll examine next month — buying your new store with little or no money.
NICK BOGACZ is the founder and president of Caliente Pizza & Draft House in Pittsburgh. Instagram: @caliente_pizza