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Finding Real Estate Before the Market


Bill Lapp

Anyone looking to expand knows just how tricky it is to find the ideal space. Be it commercial anchors, great site lines, drive thrus, endcaps or that 2,500-square-foot sweet spot so many restaurants are fighting for, the right real estate is tough to find. And in trophy markets its even tighter. 

"I think we've hit the peak, at least a plateau," said Gary Chou of Matthews Real Estate Investment Services at the Franchise Times Finance & Growth Conference. 

Debt is still cheap enough to keep growing, but any smart operator knows finding that ideal location is key. 

To wrangle the tough real estate market of Los Angeles, broker John Raudsep mixes technology with some classic marketing tactics. The broker started Bulldog Commercial Real Estate in 2015 to tackle that brutal market. 

The statistician by background doesn't jump on LoopNet or call local brokers. He taps into the various public databases to see where other companies are located and what zoning is available so a business owner or franchisee for an automotive company doesn't have to deal with rezoning or other legal concerns. 

Once he sees a general area where a company might fit, he leans on his network to find a fit within prime areas. To build that network, he said he became well acquainted with the local post office. 

"I sent 100 to 150 letters a week then make 150 network calls," said Raudsep. "I focus on property managers, accountants, anyone who touches a landlord."

He said he uses mail because it's one of the few avenues to the business community that people can't simply block or ignore like cell phones or email. The crowd-sourced knowledge from those business acquaintances, as well as contacts from sign makers, service providers and landlords, helps him jump on businesses that are looking for an exit from their real estate before they're on the market. 

"I'm finding end caps that nobody else can find," said Raudsep. "We just landed two drive thrus, those are impossible in Los Angeles." 

The success in the cutthroat LA market just goes to show that everyone needs to get a little creative when finding that next location. 

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The latest news, opinions and commentary on what's happening in the franchise arena that could affect your business.

Laura MichaelsLaura Michaels is editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3210, or send story ideas to lmichaels@franchisetimes.com.
Beth EwenBeth Ewen is senior editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3212, or send story ideas to bewen@franchisetimes.com.
Nicholas UptonNicholas Upton is restaurants editor at Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3226, or send story ideas to nupton@franchisetimes.com.
Mary Jo LarsonMary Jo Larson is the publisher of Franchise Times Magazine and the Restaurant Finance Monitor.  You can find her on Twitter at




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