For anyone wanting to open a restaurant, a pivotal question is “Where?”
Many Food Network shows delve into what’s eaten as well as where it’s served, but the new series “Buy This Restaurant” — premiering Monday (Feb. 3) before settling into its regular Wednesday slot two nights later — is mainly about location, location, location.
Real estate veteran Keith Simpson started his professional life as a chef, catering to England’s royal family before coming to America and buying his own first restaurant — so having been on both sides makes him uniquely suited to use the show to help match aspiring eatery owners to sites that meet their business aims.
“I came into the brokerage side in 2006,” Simpson tells Zap2it, “when I sold one of my restaurants in South Lake Tahoe, and I found it intriguing how the whole process went. As I was getting older and I didn’t want to be so involved in the operation of restaurants, I thought about the buying and selling, ‘This sounds like fun.’ And it’s been tremendous.”
Simpson works for a San Francisco-based company in helping to make property deals. “Very rarely are you buying the bricks and mortar,” he notes. “You’re buying a business, so what value is the business? When I meet with buyers and sellers, I understand exactly how a kitchen works. There’s nothing I haven’t done in my own restaurants, from mopping floors to taking reservations.”
Such expertise adds to Simpson’s dealings with prospective buyers. “I ask them about marketing,” he says, “because that’s very much a strength of mine. I help them with the menu planning. And I try to look for what I call the USPs, unique selling points … what makes them unique compared to the competition just down the road.
“Too many buyers think, ‘Oh, that’s great. It’s just around the corner from where I live. That’s where I want to have my restaurant.’ Well, that’s the completely wrong way of looking at it. You’ve got to look not at where you live but where the best location for the business is. Even if it means driving a half-hour to get there.”
Zap2it: What are you currently reading?
Simpson: There’s a tremendous book I just finished [“The Secrets of Mary Bowser” by Lois Leveen], and it was all to do with a slave who was freed by her owner, then became a spy for the North.
What did you have for dinner last night?
I had a French dip and french fries. And I also enjoyed a gin and grapefruit … a salty dog.
What is your next project?
This show has me very busy, but I’ve got 37 restaurants listed right now and five in escrow, so I’m actually a very busy boy with my day job.
When was the last vacation you took — where and why?
It was actually my honeymoon, and I went to a lovely resort about 10 miles north of Cancun with my beautiful new wife.