Restaurant Sale Leaseback

Ever wonder how your restaurant business could benefit from a sale leaseback? If you operate restaurants and you also own the real estate, then a sale leaseback could be a great option when you’re ready to raise capital for business growth, to pay down debt, or to sell your real estate due to a business sale.

We help restaurant operators unlock their real estate equity.

Restaurant Sale Leaseback

What is a Restaurant Sale Leaseback?

A sale leaseback, also known as a “leaseback”, is a useful and creative way for you to raise capital quickly by unlocking the value you have built up in your restaurant real estate. You would start by selling your restaurant’s real estate to an investor and then immediately lease the real estate back from the new owner at mutually agreed terms. Your restaurant would continue to operate just like before, but you would now be the “lessee” (aka, tenant) in the property, and the buyer would be the “lessor” (aka, landlord). 

Here are the top reasons why you might consider a sale leaseback on your restaurant real estate:

  • You want to expand your restaurant to more locations and you need capital to purchase/open these new location(s)
  • You need to restructure your balance sheet and/or pay down debt.
  • If your restaurant is sold, the new owner might not be interested in purchasing the real estate along with the business and you could sell the real estate quickly through a sale leaseback to unlock your equity. 

To break it down, the simplest way to think about a restaurant sale leaseback is this: You could sell your restaurant real estate and immediately lease it back from the new owner. This way, you get access to new capital but also continue to operate your restaurant just like before. 

What is a restaurant sale leaseback?
Advantages of a restaurant sale leaseback

Advantages of a Sale Leaseback for Restaurant Operaters

If you operate a restaurant that also owns real estate assets, there are many great advantages to pursuing a sale leaseback transaction. There are some disadvantages too, so it’s important to be clear on what your business goals are, and these goals should help determine whether a sale leaseback is right for you.

Benefits of a sale leaseback for the lessee/seller

  • You could quickly unlock any equity that’s “stored” in your real estate to help grow your restaurant faster.
  • You decrease your overall operational risk when you no longer own the restaurant’s real estate and that risk now sits with the new owner.
  • You can improve the health of your business balance sheet by trading your mortgage (liability) for an asset (cash).

Benefits of a sale leaseback for the lessor/buyer

  • They get a lease that is guaranteed by your operating business
  • They get a consistent and predictable stream of income for a long period of time
  • They get a fair return on their invested capital

As you can see from these benefits, a sale leaseback can be a truly win-win scenario for both you, the restaurant owner, and the buyer/investor alike. While there are many details that both parties need to agree on, such as the lease length, monthly payments, etc, the sale leaseback transaction provides many advantages and is a useful tool you should consider if you are looking to raise capital quickly for your restaurant.

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Restaurant Sale Leaseback Risks

Like all transactions, there is always some risk involved and you should be aware of the common restaurant sale leaseback risks that could affect both the seller and buyer. These risks can usually be assessed and mitigated during the due-diligence phase so that both parties can be prepared to wisely complete their sale leaseback transaction.

Risks of a sale leaseback to the seller/lessee

  • You could have a new investor/landlord that’s difficult to work with.
  • You give up the future appreciation in your real estate.

Risks of a sale leaseback for the buyer/lessor

  • The tenant restaurant could default on their lease agreement forcing an eviction.
  • The tenant business is in daily control of the real estate and could start using it in an unauthorized or illegal way.

While there are many considerations for both the seller/lessee and buyer/lessor, these common risks can be mitigated by each party before entering into an agreement. For example, if you operate a restaurant and are considering a sale leaseback, it would be worth your time to get to know investor first and speak with other tenants of the investor to get a clear picture of how they will treat you as the new landlord.

For the buyer/investor, it is important for them to mitigate these risks by understanding your business model and financial health of the tenant. Investors will want to know the strength of your business in terms of the following:

  • Is your restaurant business growing or shrinking? 
  • What is the gross revenue of your restaurant for the past few years?
  • What entity will be guaranteeing the lease and what is that entity’s creditworthiness?
Restaurant Sale Leaseback Risks
Restaurant Sale Leaseback Examples

Restaurant Sale Leaseback Examples

While there are many restaurant sale leaseback examples, here are a couple that should give you a clearer picture of why might choose to do a sale leaseback for your restaurant real estate.

Example 1: Restaurant Expansion

Christina and Brian own two locations of a popular fast food franchise in Arizona. They were offered an opportunity to purchase more franchised locations nearby. They researched what it would take to finance the purchase of the new locations and realized that they would be able to purchase both locations without financing if they raised capital by selling  the real estate from their two current fast food locations in a sale leaseback transaction. This would free up the capital they had built up over the years. This allowed them to purchase the new locations without taking on much new debt and actually improved their balance sheet in the process. They removed mortgage debt and increased their assets all at once. They came to an agreement with an investor and sold their restaurant real estate and immediately signed a 15 year lease to remain and continue to operate in the first two locations.

Example 2: Restaurant Sale

Mark owns and operates 10 successful locations of a fast casual restaurant brand in Georgia and South Carolina and he was looking to sell his restaurants as a portfolio to a new operator. Mark wanted to unlock the equity he had built up in the ten restaurant locations before he sold the business. He had active mortgages on all ten properties. He decided that a sale leaseback transaction was the cheapest and quickest way to unlock his real estate equity and allow the new operator to continue in the existing locations. He found an investor who was willing to purchase the real estate for fair market value and immediately after the business sale happened, Mark sold the real estate and the new restaurant operator signed a longterm lease to lock in a great lease rate that will help control expenses into the future.

Hopefully, these two examples give you a better picture why you might consider a sale leaseback to unlock your restaurant real estate equity.

Restaurant Sale Leaseback Agreement

While the sale of your restaurant real estate is the first half of the transaction, the leaseback agreement itself is equally important to both the you, the tenant, and the buyer/lessor. The primary concerns in the leaseback agreement itself are the lease length, and the amount of the monthly lease payments. You can use a sale leaseback calculator to understand how the sale price and the lease length and payment amounts are related. Typically both parties start their negotiation by using a standard leaseback agreement template that includes the primary elements of duration and monthly payments, but the agreement also should have any important details related to the responsibility of each party.

Here’s a partial list of elements any restaurant leaseback agreement should have:

  • Length of lease in months
  • Monthly lease payment amount
  • Lease renewal options
  • Lease payment increases and timing
  • Entity that is guaranteeing the lease
  • Consequences in the case of a late lease payment or default on lease
  • Management and financial responsibility breakdown of various elements (Insurance, taxes, maintenance, improvements, roof, structure, HVAC etc.)
Restaurant Sale Leaseback Agreement
Sale Leaseback Companies

Next Steps

While there are plenty of commercial real estate brokers who would offer to help when you are ready to think through a sale leaseback for your restaurant real estate, there are actually few companies that specialize in the sale leaseback process. These select companies, like work directly with restaurant operators to buy real estate directly from you, the owner, with zero fees and a quick process. We help you think through your options and potential pitfalls associated with a sale leaseback transaction for your particular situation. So, if you are considering a sale leaseback to raise funds for your business expansion or debt pay-down, start by letting us give you a free offer for your real estate.