Selling A Restaurant — How To Write A Restaurant-For-Sale Ad That Attracts Buyers

When selling a restaurant, your for-sale-by-owner advertisement should be written with two key facts in mind:

Fact #1: The Goal For Your Advertisement Is To Attract Qualified Buyers And Motivate Them To Request More Information

You can’t sell your restaurant through an ad, you can only hope to locate people who are good prospects and get them interested in learning more about your business. Don’t put pressure on yourself trying to communicate every single detail about the company. Just tell the reader enough to get them interested in your restaurant and wanting to know more.

Fact #2: Buyers don’t READ online ads, they SCAN them

The reason buyers scan ads and don’t read them is because there are so many ads out there — no one could read them all. The biggest business-for-sale web site — — boasts over 48,000 active advertisements on their site.

Obviously people are not going to read through all those ads looking for the one or two that strike their interests.

Instead, what people do is scan the page looking for a few hot-button words or phrases that catch their eye. When they see a hot button or two they will then slow down to read the details of that listing.

A high quality prospect will have a general idea of the types of restaurants that appeal to him. He will have certain hot buttons related to:

1.) Restaurant Type — the person interested in a fast food place or sandwich shop won’t even read past the headline for a high end French restaurant.

2.)The Location— to protect your confidentiality you do not want to be overly specific about location. Also, a general description of your location is a very natural way to peak the curiosity of the buyer — if the like

what they read in the rest of the listing the first thing they will do is contact you to get a more specific description of your location.

3.) Price Range — the price you list in your ad is your opening offer in the price negotiations so don’t be afraid to be honest about your expectations. Buyers will still pursue businesses that are slightly out of their initial price range in the hopes they can negotiate a better price. Or, after seeing the business, they may just decide to increase their budget.

While scanning the ads the buyer is compiling a short list of businesses with which to follow up.

It should be your goal to get on the short-lists of high quality buyers while simultaneously being left off the short-lists of the unprepared tire kickers.

There is only so much you can say about the type, location and price range of your business. So the key to writing a good ad comes down to the “Description” or “Comments” section of the ad.

The key thing to remember when writing the the comments section of the ad is this:

Tell them just enough information to get them interested and wanting to know more.

In other words don’t try to tell them every last detail about your business. Simply mention 3–5 positive elements of your business and spend 1 or 2 sentences describing them.

(Seems pretty obvious, but it is not uncommon for some restaurant owners to submit their listing to us with list of “assets” such as the number forks, knives and salt shakers that are included in the sale. Remember, your prospects are scanning your ad looking for highlights so make sure that is what you give them. )

Some things you may want to mention are:

-You have a transferable lease in place with attractive rent and an option to renew

-You are located on the corner of a busy intersection

-You will stay on with the business temporarily for a training period

-You have lots of repeat customers

-Sales and profits have been increasing in recent years.

If this list doesn’t help stimulated ideas, than just answer this question:

What are the top 3 reasons someone would be lucky to own your business?

If your restaurant’s type, location and price range are of interest to the buyer, then all you need to do is add in some interesting and positive facts about the business and you will be on their short list.

Examples Of Good Selling A Restaurant Ads

Below are examples of effective restaurants for-sale-by-owner ads that were placed on along with some commentary about what is good about each of the ads.

Profile# 5096
Coffee Shop / Cafe

Location: Bennington,Vermont
Gross: $260,000 Net: $45,000 Price: $132,500
Years Established: 3 # Of Employees: 8
Terms: 50% down, balance @ Prime plus 1% for 4 years
Comments: Great turn key cafe with an existing client base that has consistently increased over time. Everything is in place to take over and take what has already been established and make it grow even more. We provide specialty coffee drinks, breakfast all day, hot and cold lunch items, salads, homemade soups, desserts in a great atmosphere which brings people back time and time again.

*This owner wasn’t as concerned with confidentiality so he included the town’s name.

*This owner has given specifics about the financing he is willing to offer. I recommend that you not lock yourself into specifics and instead just say “Negotiable”. But this owner is willing to offer very attractive terms and decided to let people know about it upfront in the hopes of generating more response. If you are unwilling to offer any type of financing, that should definitely be in your ad — it’s best to let them know as soon as possible that they must find their own financing.

Profile# 6899
Restaurant, Catering & Concession

Location: Central Pennsylvania
Gross: $580,000 Selling Price: $895,000
Years Established: 6 # Of Employees: 20
Terms: Negotiable
Comments: Well established, independently owned quick service restaurant, specializing in charcoal roasted pork, pork BBQ, and soft serve ice cream. Currently have a customer loyalty rewards program in place with five thousand customers in the database who can be marketed to on a continuous bases. The restaurant is a 3600 sq. ft building with inside seating for 65, outside seating for 30, and is situated on 1.5 acres of real estate situated along a heavily traveled main road. The local area is well populated with a population of over 66,000 people within a ten mile radius. It is located 1/4 mile outside a major college town and is within a half mile of the college itself.

* A lot of good, positive information in this ad including the fact that they have kept a database of customers over the years now numbering over 5 thousands people. Also, notice that this fact is mentioned in the second sentence. Always put your strongest selling points in the first sentence or two — it may be the last thing the prospect reads before deciding to move on.

*The description of the location is excellent. Without saying exactly where they are located this owner managed to insert several aspects about their location including the fact that they are on a well travelled highway and are on the outskirts of a college town.

Please notice that the descriptions are not that long. 4–5 sentences each. This is what you want to do — give them just enough information to get them interested and wanting to know more. When the prospect contacts you to request for information or more details about what is in your ad — that is when the ad has done it’s job.

Effectively Handling Buyer Responses

Once your ad is up and generating responses, you will need some way to have buyers contact you while maintaining your confidentiality and not interrupting your busy day.

First of all, you need to decide how you want buyers to contact you. I would recommend that you avoid putting your e-mail address in the ad as the method of contact. Doing so will result in you receiving a lot of anonymous requests for more information.

This e-mail is typical of the responses you may get:


I need a lot more information on your restaurant. Please send me tax returns and Audited Financial Statements for the last three years as well as your current menu and a detailed analysis of industry trends.

Thank you,


I’ll admit, this is a little bit of an exaggeration ……… they almost never say please or thank you!

If you use a service other than to advertise your business for-sale-by-owner, I suggest you include a phone number not connected to your business. Prospects can talk to you if you are available or leave you a message and you can call them back.

No matter how well your write your ad you will get some responses from unqualified prospects as well as business brokers and possibly even your competitors. By talking to the prospect on the phone, you have a chance to size them up not just based on what they say but how they say it.

In one good phone conversation you can often accomplish more than with 10 e-mails going back and forth between you and the anonymous prospect. And if the conversation goes well, you can move right on to the next step and send them a confidentiality agreement.

Of course, this is just a preliminary prescreening, but you would be amazed at how well this simple form separates business professionals with the ability to buy from the pretenders. You see the person with the experience and know-how you are looking for understands how important it is for you to protect your confidentiality and prescreen buyers. They happily cooperate. But the inexperienced prospect with no cash or credit history almost never cooperates and therefore never wastes your time.


-Your “Business For Sale By Owner” ad should be short, to the point and always positive.

-It should include a selling price and 4–5 highlights of the business.

-If confidentiality is a concern, don’t be too specific about location

-If you are willing to offer seller financing, this fact should be in the ad. But we suggest that instead of listing specific cash down and interest rate, that you just say “Negotiable”.

-An e-mail address is not the best method of contact, a phone number is better.

This story originnaly appeared on — published January 17, 2014

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.