In the Know: 'Man behind the curtain' sells chain restaurants for millions

Jim Shiebler, vice president of investments for Marcus & Millichap, a national real estate brokerage firm, called himself the 'man behind the curtain'.

Photo: Andrea Melendez/The News-Press/USA Today Florida Network

I’m aware of the hysteria surrounding the rapid and worldwide spread of the coronavirus.


That’s just a disclaimer. With that out of the way, onward to the rest of this week’s column, which will be coronavirus-free.


I’ve been writing the column for about a year now, and it took that long for me to meet “the man behind the curtain.”


While a bunch of shopping centers and restaurants have "for sale" and "for lease" signs out front, I have learned that a near equal number are for sale but are not openly advertised as such.


Jim Shiebler, vice president of investments for Marcus & Millichap, a national real estate brokerage firm, called himself the “man behind the curtain.”


Shiebler, a former executive chef at the Seminole Casino Hotel in Immokalee, decided more than a decade ago to shift his skills to specializing in selling shopping centers and restaurants in Southwest Florida.


Right now, he has four prominent name-brand restaurants on the block and for sale, but patrons wouldn’t know it if they were inside dining on steak, chicken fingers, burgers or tacos.

Connors Steak & Seafood at 10076 Gulf Center Drive, Fort Myers.

“The stock market is so volatile right now,” Shiebler said. “Commercial real estate is the stable asset now.”


Shiebler then ran down his current slate of restaurant land for sale.


They range in price from $1.9 million for the Ruby Tuesday at 21301 Town Commons Drive in Estero, an outparcel to the adjacent Lowe’s, to $7 million for Connors Steak & Seafood at 10076 Gulf Center Drive at Gulf Coast Town Center.

PDQ at 12499 South Cleveland Ave., Fort Myers.

In between, he has listed the Taco Bell at 28370 Trails Edge Blvd., in Bonita Springs, for $2.7 million, and the PDQ at 12499 S. Cleveland Ave., north of College Parkway, for $3.3 million.


Buyers aren’t buying the business. They won’t get to oversee employees rolling burritos, grilling steaks or frying chicken tenders.


Buyers instead are buying the buildings and the land on which those businesses operate. In short, the buyers are buying the right to make more money off the lease terms, Shiebler said.


The PDQ, one of about 80 restaurants in a chain, has 10 years remaining on its lease. Even if the restaurant were to underperform, the new landlord is guaranteed to get paid.


“So there’s a 10-year cash flow,” Shiebler said. “You’re guaranteed two-thirds of your investment.”

Ruby Tuesday at 21301 Town Commons Drive, Estero.

The Connors has 7.5 years remaining on its lease. The restaurant did almost $7 million in sales last year and $6.6 million the year before, according to a 36-page book regarding the property he gives to prospective buyers. It had aerial views of the restaurant and five sections full of facts, figures and demographic information. The new owner, for example, would be guaranteed $265,022 in annual income from the tenant for the remainder of the lease.


“This is a tremendous opportunity,” Shiebler said. "Something that’s one person’s challenge is another investor’s opportunity. As you get older, your risk tolerance lessens.”


For a seller with five years left on a lease, they’re leaving the buyer with opportunity to thrive, he said.


Shiebler does these deals all the time. He said he has sold five Taco Bells in the past six months.


Taco Bells, he said, were recession-proof.


Sometimes they sit on the market for a couple of months. He listed the most recent a week ago. Connors has been on the market a few months, PDQ about nine weeks and Ruby Tuesday about four weeks.


“We do everything behind the curtain,” Shiebler said. “Each week, we open it up to more of our coveted clients. I had to get behind the curtain, just to know who the players were.”

Taco Bell at 28370 Trails Edge Boulevard, Bonita Springs.

2020 Fort Myers News-Press.

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