Retirement Options As a Restaurant Owner in 2024

Retirement Options for Restaurant Owners 2024

As a restaurant owner, we understand that the restaurant business is more than just a job for you. 

It’s a personal commitment, a testament to your hard work and dedication. 

The thought of someone else taking over your brand can be mind-blowing, especially when you’ve poured your heart and soul into it. 

But there comes a time when retirement is on the horizon, and tough decisions are unavoidable. You’re facing the question of who can value your business as much as you do, and more importantly, who can uphold your customer loyalty and brand vision?

Let’s get into a few of the most viable retirement options for restaurant owners, and which ones we recommend.

Who Can You Sell to as a Restaurant Owner?

First things first, who can you sell to? 

When talking with clients about potential buyers for their restaurants, we discuss three typical buyers: a family member, a key employee, and a third-party buyer. 

And like anything, among the three potential buyer types, each has its pros and cons. 

Those closest to you—your family or key team members— may not have the financial means to take over.

Of course, they share your vision and understand your business methods like the backs of their hands, but paying fair market value may be a challenge without extraordinary support. 

On the other hand, third-party buyers can deliver financial security without hassle, but who knows? They may not align with your values and could change your business in ways that give you stomach pains every time you drive by. 

Which direction you should go depends on a few factors. So, let’s get into a few of them:

Viable Retirement Options for Restaurant Owners

Establish the “Third-Party” Benchmark Valuation

First things first – know what your business is worth so that you can compare all options objectively.

In other words, you need to know the maximum you can demand today from a third party. Not only does this give you a running start when talking to any party, but it also creates:

  • A benchmark to measure all retirement options for restaurant owners.
  • The opportunity to quickly remedy any flaws the valuation exposed to create extra value.
  • By definition, the benchmark aligns with you putting the restaurant on the open market—negotiating the highest price—without emotional baggage or doing anyone any favors.


Getting a professional valuation can start with your accountant, experienced business brokers in the hospitality industry, or both.

The First Option: Selling Your Restaurant to a Family Member or Key Employee

One of the most popular options for restaurant owners is to sell to a family member.

This is a great option if your sole purpose of selling is to not make the most amount of money. 

Because let’s be honest, your end goal is not for your family to overpay. Instead, you’d like them to take ownership for other reasons. 

Typically, when owners sell to family members, it comes at a discount; potentially selling at a reduced rate over a 4-5 year period to make it more manageable (and cheaper) for the family member.

Similarly, you may consider selling the business to a key employee who is interested in buying the company. 

This type of purchase timeline can also work with a key employee; consider a stock option plan where they acquire a certain amount every year to make it easier to buy. 

If you prefer to sell to a family member or a key employee, it’s important to plan, as it’s less likely to be a one-off lump sum transaction.

We recommend meeting with an experienced restaurant accountant several years before you plan to sell to start putting plans in place. It may take some finagling to ensure the transaction works for both parties.  

The Other Option: Selling to an Outside Party

On the flip side, if your main aim is to make the most amount of money as possible, selling to an outside buyer might be your best bet.

An outside buyer will complete a one-time transaction to buy the assets of your business, ideally, at the highest price possible. 

However, getting the best price for your business requires many factors to come together just right.

That’s why we tell sellers to look at two important factors right off the bat: 

  • Does your business have a healthy cash flow?
  • Is your buyer healthy?


If your business lacks strong finances or the buyer can’t secure a large enough Small Business Administration (SBA) loan, you may have to resort to seller financing for the remaining portion of the sale.

This means you could find yourself financing the deal personally, with the buyer gradually repaying you over the next ten years. 

Even worse, the deal could collapse after months of preparation, leaving you back at square one. This might happen while you’ve already begun mentally transitioning into retirement, possibly letting the business slip in quality and, consequently, valuation.

Neither of these scenarios is desirable, yet unfortunately, they occur too often.

That’s why it’s essential to work with experienced professionals—a skilled restaurant accountant, an attorney, and an experienced restaurant broker—to help guide you through the entire process, from preparation to final sale.

Need Help Planning For Retirement as a Restaurant Owner?

As you can guess, the right approach for selling your business will ultimately depend on your unique circumstances, desires, and financial expectations.

And as retirement approaches, it’s wise to begin mapping out your financial strategy for the next 5-10 years.

That’s where we can help.

An experienced restaurant accountant can guide you through planning your exit strategy, strengthening your business’s financial position, and improving the factors that influence your business’s valuation.

At U-Nique Accounting, our goal is to support you every step of the way.

If you’d like to chat more about your specific situation, you can use our calendar below to book a call or head over to our Getting Started page.

And if our services aren’t the right fit for you, we’ll gladly point you in the right direction.

Until next time!

Matt C


Xero Partner

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