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  • Writer's pictureJimmy Carey

Ready, Set, Sell!: Getting Your Restaurant Ready for Market

Updated: Jan 1

Restaurant with open kitchen and table & counter seating area
Jimmy Carey Commercial Real Estate

Organize Financial Records:

Monthly and Yearly Statements

Provide comprehensive P&L statements for at least the past three years, broken down on a monthly and yearly basis. This offers potential buyers a clear understanding of the restaurant's financial performance over time.

Detailed Revenue Breakdown

Include a detailed breakdown of revenue sources, such as food sales, beverage sales, catering services, and any other income streams. This breakdown helps identify key revenue drivers.

Expense Categorization

Clearly categorize and detail all operating expenses, including but not limited to food and beverage costs, labor, rent, utilities, marketing, and administrative expenses. This breakdown helps buyers assess the operational efficiency and profitability of the business.

Provide Complete Tax Returns

Furnish copies of the business's federal and state tax returns for the past three years. This documentation verifies the accuracy of reported income and supports the financial information provided in the P&L statements.

Review by a Tax Professional

Have the tax returns reviewed by a certified tax professional to ensure they accurately represent the financial health of the restaurant. A clean and transparent tax history adds credibility to the business.

Cash Inflows and Outflows

Present detailed cash flow statements that outline the inflow and outflow of cash over a specified period. This provides insights into how cash is generated and utilized in the day-to-day operations of the restaurant.

Business and Operating Accounts

Provide copies of business bank statements for the past year. This offers a detailed look at cash transactions, verifies reported income, and supports the accuracy of financial records.

Merchant Services Statements

If applicable, include statements from credit card processors and merchant services to demonstrate the volume of card transactions and associated fees.

Working Capital Analysis

Conduct a working capital analysis to demonstrate the restaurant's ability to cover short-term obligations. This analysis is crucial for buyers assessing the business's financial stability.

Asset and Liability Overview

Include a comprehensive balance sheet that outlines the restaurant's assets and liabilities. This document provides a snapshot of the business's financial position at a specific point in time.

Equity Details

Clearly specify the owner’s equity and any outstanding loans or liabilities. Buyers are keen to understand the financial structure and obligations associated with the business.


Owner Discretionary Spend List

During negotiations, a transparent and well-documented approach to discretionary expenses can provide the seller with greater negotiating leverage. It builds trust with the buyer and demonstrates a commitment to fair and accurate representation of the business's financials.


Owner's discretionary expenses refer to the discretionary spending of a business owner, which is separate from the essential operating expenses required to run the business. These are expenses that the owner has control over and can choose to incur or not based on personal preferences or the financial health of the business.  Examples include bonuses and perks, travel and entertainment, training and education, charitable contributions, non-essential equipment, or technology, and other expenses.


Other Considerations

Future Projections & Forecasting

Prepare detailed budgets and financial forecasts for the upcoming years. This demonstrates your understanding of the market and your expectations for the business's future performance.

Assumptions and Rationale

Clearly articulate the assumptions and rationale behind your financial projections. This transparency helps potential buyers assess the validity of the forecasts.

Curb Appeal and Presentation

Consider minor interior and exterior renovations to freshen up the appearance of your restaurant. This could involve repainting, fixing any visible structural issues, and upgrading signage. A well-maintained restaurant signals buyers that the property has been cared for and is a valuable investment.  Address any visible wear and tear, such as chipped paint, broken tiles, or malfunctioning fixtures. Fixing these issues not only improves aesthetics but also signals that the property is in good condition.

Ensure your restaurant has a strong online presence, including an updated website, active social media accounts, and positive online reviews.  The majority of buyers research businesses online before making inquiries.


Business Licenses and Permits

Health Department

Health department permits are often specific to certain aspects of food service, such as handling certain types of food or offering outdoor dining. They ensure compliance with health and safety standards. Make sure to have a copy of the, up to date, Health Department Certificate handy.

Business Operation License

A general business operation license may be required by the local municipality. It confirms that your restaurant is authorized to operate within the designated area.

Certificate of Occupancy-“CO”

A "CO" typically refers to a Certificate of Occupancy. It is an official document issued by a local government or building department certifying that a building or premises complies with the applicable building codes, zoning regulations, and other laws, and is suitable for occupancy. The certificate is typically required before a building can be used or occupied, usually awarded by the Fire Marshall.

Sign Permit

Some municipalities require a sign permit for external business signage. This permit ensures that the size, type, and placement of signs comply with local regulations.

Grease Trap Permit

A grease trap permit is a regulatory authorization issued by local water and sewer authorities that allows a business, particularly those in the food service industry such as restaurants, to install and operate a grease trap on their premises. 

When selling a restaurant business, having a valid grease trap permit, and previous maintenance logs (also known as Manifest) can be important for the new owner's compliance with local regulations and environmental standards. 


Getting your restaurant business ready for market sale involves meticulous financial organization, ensuring transparency and instilling confidence in potential buyers. From comprehensive profit and loss statements to detailed revenue breakdowns and expense categorization, a thorough financial overview facilitates a smooth due diligence process. Providing complete, professionally reviewed tax returns and detailing owner discretionary expenses during negotiations further enhance credibility and trust with prospective investors.


Beyond finances, enhancing curb appeal and maintaining a robust online presence contribute significantly to the marketability of the restaurant. Minor renovations, a well-maintained physical space, and a positive online reputation create a desirable image, signaling to buyers that the property is valuable and cared for. Simultaneously, addressing regulatory requirements, including licensing and permits, ensures a seamless transition for the new owner, highlighting compliance with local regulations and environmental standards.

In this intricate process, having a dedicated Commercial Real Estate Agent like Jimmy Carey Commercial Real Estate becomes invaluable. Jimmy's expertise not only extends to restaurant sales but also includes navigating the complex landscape of regulatory compliance and market trends. With Jimmy as an ally, sellers gain a seasoned professional who can guide them through negotiations, strategic decision-making, and the nuances of commercial real estate. Choosing Jimmy Carey Commercial Real Estate in Atlanta is not just a transaction; it's securing a trusted partner to navigate the intricate journey of selling a restaurant business successfully.


For a FREE Consultation contact us at 678-406-8478 or


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