Standing In The Landlord’s Shoes: Seeing Yourself As A Prospective Tenant

Negotiate A Restaurant Lease Renewal Free rent landlord deposits

Securing a commercial tenancy isn’t always an easy process. For one reason, landlords and tenants have different motivations. For the landlord, owning commercial property and leasing space to tenants is their primary goal. For the tenant, however, leasing space is not the primary goal. Instead, the tenant should focus on running a profitable business or providing great service. The property is a place to attract customers to your business – it’s not an end unto itself. Restaurant tenants don’t always want to lease space; it’s simply a requirement if they want to see their business goals come to fruition – a means to an end, if you will.

landlords commercial leasesTherefore, landlords and restaurant tenants are not equal. The tail can’t wag the dog. If the landlord is the dog, then the tenant is the tail. And, as we know, dogs chase their tails. Consider that a restaurant tenant typically only has one landlord, whereas a commercial landlord may have hundreds (or even thousands) of tenants. The relationship between a tenant and landlord is not like an equal marriage with common goals.

It amazes us how, during the leasing process, many landlords avoid meeting their tenants – and most tenants avoid meeting the landlord. When it comes to new lease deals, often there’s a real estate agent (or two) brokering the deal between the parties. Rarely, in our experience, does the agent try to bring the landlord and tenant together to meet personally or to even talk by telephone. Being busy is no excuse. If a tenant isn’t creating a relationship with the landlord and making deposits to that relationship, how can the tenant ever expect to make a withdrawal when they need a favor?

How can you encourage landlords to take you on as a tenant?

Sweeten the pot. If you have an existing location and the landlord is local, prepare a couple of your finest dishes and take them with you when you meet the landlord at his office  – one meal will be for the landlord and the other will be for his office staff to share. As another alternative, inviting the landlord to your location for a complimentary meal or even giving a gift certificate for your restaurant can make you look good.

Explain your business concept. All restaurant tenants are not created equally. Are you opening a sidewalk sandwich shop? A fine dining restaurant? Catering? Don’t assume that the landlord understands everything about your business.

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You may, however, have your tenancy request rejected. This may be done for any number of reasons. Often, a smart landlord is striving for a specific tenant mix within his/her property. Consider that if a landlord is developing a retail plaza, he/she may prefer to hold out on leasing space to a take-out/delivery restaurant location and look for a sit-down restaurant that attracts more customers to the center.

Additionally, landlords sometimes reject tenants who have insufficient capital or bad credit scores. We have also seen landlords turning away prospective tenants who desire to lease less than available commercial space. If you want to save yourself a lot of time kicking tires on different properties, find out what the landlord wants right up front. Ask the agent, “Do you think the landlord wants a restaurant / foodservice tenant for this property?” The agent’s answer will let you know if the landlord does or doesn’t want your type of business in his property.

For a copy of our free CD, Leasing Do’s & Don’ts for Commercial Tenants, please e-mail your request to

Dale Willerton and Jeff Grandfield - The Lease Coach are Commercial Lease Consultants who work exclusively for tenants. Dale and Jeff are professional speakers and co-authors of Negotiating Commercial Leases & Renewals FOR DUMMIES (Wiley, 2013). Got a leasing question? Need help with your new lease or renewal? Call 1-800-738-9202, e-mail or visit For a free copy of their CD, “Leasing Do’s & Don’ts for Restaurant Tenants”, please e-mail your request to