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Buying a Gas Station – things you should know

The first thing to know when buying a gas station is that you are unlikely to get rich selling gas. In an urban area the typical margin per gallon of gas is 6-9 cents per gallon. In many cases credit card fees will wipe out any profit on gasoline sales. This is why it is becoming more common for stations to offer split pricing, one price for cash and another for credit.

While many people assume that higher gas prices mean more profits for gas stations owners – very often the opposite is true. Higher prices generally mean lower sales volume while at the same time squeezing already tight margins.

The key to a profitable gas station is the “inside sales”. Here margins typically run as high as 35%. Groceries, beverages and tobacco sales are lucrative. Other income streams such as car wash, lotto and ATM fees are common. Increasingly gas stations are serving prepared food and gourmet coffee in an effort to boost the bottom line.

To be viable most gas stations need at least $30,000 per month in inside sales. While gas is not very profitable it is a good lure to entice people into the store. Gas stations near major Interstates can do very high volume and are sought after.

The industry has become increasingly competitive and is always sensitive to the general economic climate. On the positive side everyone needs gas and a gas station with good inside volume can be highly profitable.

While there are gas stations that sell mostly or only gas, most stations also have a convenience store attached. For the purpose of this article I am dealing with the gas station/convenience store operation.

The importance of confidentiality – when selling your business

When business owners first approach me about selling their business – often their greatest concern is Confidentiality. The worry is that employees, vendors, competitors and customers may learn that the business is for sale. I will deal with each concern separately.

Employees: Employees may become concerned about job stability. This can lead to key employees seeking work elsewhere. Employee moral can plummet causing job attendance and performance to suffer.

Vendors: Long standing vendor relationships could be damaged. Vendors may change credit terms or pricing or even terminate the business relationship.

Competitors: Competitors may use the knowledge that a business in on the market to poach customers and employees.

Customers: Customers get nervous when they learn a business is for sale. They become concerned that a new owner may not honor pricing, warranties, commitments or that customer service will decline. These concerns may cause your customers to look elsewhere.

The combined effects of all these factors can be devastating for a business. The knowledge that your business is for sale will often affect the viability of the enterprise. It can cause the value of your business to decline or may even put you out of business.

Business Brokers know how to handle the sale of a business in a confidential manner. We do not advertise the name or location of your business. Advertising is not directed to the general public but instead we target business buyers. Now days this is done through advertising on websites dedicated to business sales.

When an inquiry is received our first step is to verify the identity of the prospect. They must sign a Non Disclosure Agreement (NDA). This is a binding document which requires the prospect to keep all they learn confidential. In most cases we will also require a Personal Financial Statement (PFS) to verify that the prospect has the financial wherewithal to purchase your business. Only after these documents are received will we release limited information.

A detailed examination of business records is only permitted after a potential buyer has made an offer or submitted a Letter of Intent acceptable to the seller. This examination of records is referred to as the “due diligence period” and is worthy of a post in itself.

In summation hiring a Business Broker will help protect the confidentiality of the transaction. This is why you should only trust your Business to a qualified and trained Business Broker. In Florida the best Business Brokers belong to the Business Brokers of Florida (BBF). Ask if your business broker is a member.

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Anthony John Rigney PA

How to determine the value of goodwill

Goodwill is the value of a business above the fair market value of its tangible assets. It is an “intangible” value meaning that it cannot be directly measured. We can measure the total value of a business in a number of ways. Main street business brokers typically use a multiple of earnings approach with relies on market data to put a value on the business. In other words we are able to value a business based on what similar businesses have sold for.

We can also estimate the value of the fixed or tangible assets of the business. Assets such furniture, fixtures and equipment can be appraised at fair market value. Once we have these two values we can determine the proportion of business value which can be assigned to goodwill utilizing the following formula.

Goodwill = Total value of business – fair market value of its tangible assets.

In the event that the fair market value of the business’s tangible assets is greater than the total value of the business there is no goodwill. In this event the business will typically be sold off for the value of its assets and no more.

In summation goodwill can be thought of as the result of the synergy between various different components of the business that create a surplus value. It is the value of a business’s customer base, reputation, branding, employee relations and any proprietary technology or patents.


Buying a Restaurant – things to know

So you are considering buying a Restaurant. Before you do so there are some things you should know.

Watch Your Margins

Experienced restaurant owners know that one of the keys to success is controlling costs. Restaurants run on tight margins and if costs are not controlled it is impossible to make a profit. Here is a general guide for the ratios of cost of goods to sales. This applies to a full service restaurant. Fast food restaurants operate at slightly different ratios.

Food costs should remain in the ratio of 28%-32% of gross food sales. Anything above 32% and as an owner you will find it difficult to be profitable. Below 28% could indicate that you are serving substandard food to your patrons and that will come back to bite you.

If you are serving alcohol, liquor costs should 18%-20% of gross liquor sales. Beer should run 24%-28% (bottle) and 15%-20% (draft). Wine should generally run 23%-35%.

Labor costs should not be much higher than 30% of total gross Sales. Most restaurateurs try to keep property rent at 8% or lower.

The margins for food and alcohol can also help to spotlight employee theft. If margins suddenly change it might be because a new employee has sticky fingers or is being a little too generous on their pours. Restaurateurs are well advised to keep a close eye on margins. Monitor your costs on a monthly or even weekly basis.


Managing employees can be a major drag. Employee turnover is a big problem in the service economy. Keeping good employees can be a difficult task. The one thing that can help and costs nothing is attitude. Be fair and respectful to your employees.

Cleanliness is next to…

The health department is another major concern. A bad inspection has ruined many a good restaurant. Make sure you keep up with the requirements of your local health department. If there is a problem, fix it immediately and properly. This is one area you cannot afford to be lax.


Know your niche. McDonalds has made billions serving bad food but they serve it cheap, fast and they are consistent. If you want to charge a premium for your food then you will need to deliver quality food with good service.

Last Words

My last piece of advice when it comes to buying a restaurant is this. Think long and hard before you do. Many restaurants fail. Even experienced operators go under. If you don’t have a background in the Industry the odds are against you. But hopefully the advice I offer here will get you off on the right foot.

Anthony John Rigney PA


Buying or selling a business is a complex process. Make sure you have the right team on your side. Contact us today!