How to Appraise a Restaurant Business

Home / Blog / How to Appraise a Restaurant Business

The Biz Blog

July 11, 2011 by Shelli Margolin

As written for

There are several reasons for appraising a restaurant, along with many nuances to the appraisal itself. Let's review how a prospective buyer can appraise a restaurant for purchase. There are three general ways that restaurants' sale prices are established: based on profits, assets, or "key costs," referring to its location value. The buyer should be aware of whether the restaurant is making a profit and what furniture, fixtures and equipment (FF&E) are included in the sale. If a restaurant is profitable, a buyer can take a financial approach to the appraisal. If the restaurant is not turning a profit, it still has value in its equipment. In some cases, a restaurant is sold for key costs: its location, property/lease value and entitlements.


Profitable Restaurants

1 Review all the financial data available. This includes a minimum of the past three years' tax returns, profit and loss statements, and any additional records of cash sales (cash sales often are not reported on tax returns or elsewhere). Note that cost of goods sold (COG) is usually around 20 to 40 percent of revenues depending on the type of restaurant.

2 Obtain a list of all FF&E that will be included in the sale price. Although the sale will be predicated on the annual profits, the restaurant can't operate without equipment that has the required permits.

3 Review the entire lease thoroughly before signing it. Understand the monthly rate and any common area maintenance (CAM) fees, along with any other charges and fees. Also, review the term and option to extend.

4 Use a multiplier of the annual profits to determine the restaurant's value. In a good economy, the rule of thumb for profitable restaurant value is two to three times the restaurant's annual profits (or discretionary earnings) plus inventory. In a bad economy, it is more likely a 1.5 to 2 multiple of discretionary earnings plus inventory.

Unprofitable Restaurants


1 Examine the hood, floor drains, three-part sink and permitted refrigerator units to make sure they are functioning. The restaurant industry is probably one of the few industries where you can sell a business that isn't making a profit, as the biggest barrier to entry is the initial build-out cost. A restaurant will sell for its permitted and functioning equipment or sometimes for its location and entitlement to operate at that location.

2 Determine what, if any, FF&E are included in the sale, as the restaurant build-out and obtaining the permits for equipment is expensive. Appraise the hood, floor drains, three-part sink and permitted refrigerator units. Ranges, ovens and other equipment are valuable, too, but they are easier to replace without requiring permits. The FF&E should be appraised upon replacement costs in order to determine the value. Don't overlook the employees; they are often an important asset to consider too. Get a good understanding of their salary and benefit structure

3 Make a thorough review of the lease or the real estate purchase agreement. Make sure the zoning and alcoholic beverage licenses are all in order, before you sign any binding agreements.

Tips & Warnings

It is always a good idea to enlist the aid of a

professional. An experienced business broker will provide well-rounded

guidance in the appraisal and purchase process. A buyer can engage

attorneys and accountants, but a business broker is much more

cost-effective. Also, consult your local Small Business Development Center

(SBDC). SBDCs are funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration and

offer free and low-cost business assistance.


  • "CNNMoney":

    What's My Restaurant Worth?; Ingrid Tharasook; December 2007

  • Quantified

    Marketing Group: Restaurant Financial Analysis

  • The Appraisal Foundation

  • QSR:

    Valuing Your Store

Restaurants, Business Sales Process, How to Buy, How to Sell, Business Valuation, Businesses for Sale

Broker Information

Shelli Margolin

4551 Glencoe Ave., Suite 210
Marina Del Rey, CA 90292
Office: (310) 882-2200 ext 128
Direct: 310-882-2200 x128
Lic#: 00902695

Logos Member of the California Association of Business Brokers Member of the International Business Brokers Association Member of the M&A Source Holder of the Merger & Acquisition Master Intermediary designation, M&A Source's highest qualification Holder of the Certified Business Intermediary designation, IBBA's highest qualification Holder of the Certified M&A Professional designation from Coles College Trained by the National Association of Certified Valuators and Analysts to conduct business valuations