By Bruce Hakutizwi
If you’ve decided to sell your restaurant, it’s vital that you realize selling needs to be taken just as seriously as running your restaurant, or it’s not going to succeed. Either it’ll sit out on the market for way too long, or you’ll end up settling for a low-ball offer and end up disappointed.
So, just as you’ve learned to build and grow your restaurant using digital tools, you can use those same basic skills to ensure that your restaurant sells quickly, and profitably.
Keep up or boost your social media activity
When your restaurant is on the market, it’s not the time to become less visible.
Just like any other purchase these days, prospective buyers are likely to start their research into potentially buying your restaurant online. They’re definitely going to look up your official website, your social media channels, and anywhere else your digital footprint appears to get a sense of who you are and how business has been going.
When you’re ready to sell, be sure your Facebook updates or Instagram uploads don’t suddenly slack off. This may indicate to prospective buyers that business is faltering or you, as the owner, have lost interest in the restaurant and it’s being neglected.
Pay special attention to review sites
This is key to marketing and growing your restaurant, and it may be even more important when you’re looking to sell.
Popular apps where customers can upload pictures and post reviews about restaurants and other businesses they visit have become a necessary part of the decision-making process when new customers are deciding where they want to eat. These reviews are often shared and automatically fed to other sites and mobile apps as well, so their reach can be huge.
Here are the big sites to be most concerned with:
- Yelp! – A Harvard Business School study shows that an increase of one-star in your Yelp rating can lead to a 9 percent increase in revenue. It’s one of the most popular review sites around and one of the most commonly aggregated by other sites and apps.
- OpenTable – A subsidiary of travel and accomodation megasite, Priceline.com, OpenTable is the largest online restaurant reservation service. They include the ability to add reviews as a value-added service for their more than 19 million monthly users.
- Zagat – One of the first companies to focus on restaurant ratings – long before the internet – Zagat has slid smoothly into the upper echelon of restaurant ratings sites online as well.
- Google+ – Although not specific to restaurants, Google’s suite of free digital tools have become ubiquitous. The combination of their dominating search engine, Google Maps for navigation and discovery, and the ratings and reviews compiled on their Google+ social network, it’s vital for restaurants to monitor what Google has to say about them.
- Facebook – Though not quite as entrenched in the “what should we do tonight” decision-making process as Google is, there’s no denying that nearly every current and potential customer you have has a Facebook account and many of them are on it every single day. Every time they check in, they have the opportunity to post a review and every status update could theoretically contain review content.
When it comes to online reviews, one of the key matters to focus on is striking a professional and friendly balance between being responsive and being defensive. It’s appropriate to respond to reviews, even if they’re negative. In fact, failing to do so comes off sounding like an admission of guilt.
But it’s important not to get dragged into an ugly social media war over a bad review, even if you think it’s unfair. By responding professionally and making every effort to resolve the matter (if that’s even possible) or at least allowing it to end, you put your restaurant in the best light.
For prospective buyers, reviews can be educational on two fronts:
- They can see what the average customer attitude is about your restaurant’s food, service, prices, etc., which can help them decide if your current model is working well or if adjustments may be needed.
- They can see how professionally you handle reviews, which tells them a lot about you as an owner, your restaurant’s brand, and whether or not they’re going to want to step into that role any time soon.
Take advantage of online listing services
Although there are many different ways, both online and offline, to let the general public know you’re interested in selling your restaurant, once again, most buyers are going to start their purchasing journey online.
It makes sense to take full advantage of online business listing services where prospective business buyers go to look for potential deals in their areas of interest. In addition to offering cost-effective access to hundreds of thousands of buyers, many of these sites include valuable educational content regarding business valuation, negotiation, and other skills that can help you get the most value when selling your restaurant.
A note on transferring your digital footprint
If you’re selling your restaurant and the prospective buyer is interested in maintaining the format, brand, and everything else you’ve built, it only makes sense that they’re going to want to be able to hit the ground running using all of your pre-built digital assets as well.
It’s sound business advice any time, but becomes especially important when it’s time to sell:
Be sure to clearly separate your restaurant’s professional presence from your (or your staff’s) personal social media and digital selves. If the two are too closely intertwined, it can be a real turnoff for a prospective buyer imagining either trying to separate them after the purchase, or wiping them clean and starting from scratch on that front because they couldn’t be separated.
For example, there’s nothing at all wrong with posting an Instagram photo of yourself, your bartender, or hostess on your restaurant’s account, but make sure it stays professional and in line with your restaurant’s established brand. If the pic is off brand in some way, or could be taken wrong, it’s best to forget about it or at least relegate it to someone’s personal account, maybe without even tagging the restaurant.
Have you had any success selling a restaurant in the past? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
Bruce Hakutizwi is the U.S. and international manager of BusinessesForSale.com, a global online marketplace for buying and selling small- and medium-sized businesses. With more than 60,000 business listings, it attracts 1.4 million buyers every month.