6 key ingredients for a successful restaurant loan application

Applying for a loan can be stressful, but coming in with the right documentation and clear goals can make the process smoother.

My passion for the restaurant industry started with my first teenage job as a hostess for Max & Erma’s casual restaurant, where I even dressed up as Max in full costume a few times (no photo in direct). The experience left me with a good perspective on the unique challenges that restaurateurs face in operating and growing their business. Today, as Director of Restaurant Finance at Wells Fargo, I now serve the financial needs of restaurateurs of all sizes and from many brands.

To say that the past year and a half has been difficult for restaurants would be an understatement. Despite being one of the industries hardest hit during the pandemic, many restaurateurs have persevered and found some determination to keep going. Many even look to the future with an eye for expansion or reinvestment, which could include debt financing or raising capital.

Restaurant owners are used to tough challenges. Finding the right lender and applying for a loan shouldn’t be one of them. With that in mind, here is a checklist that can help you prepare to approach potential lenders:

1. financial state

Starting with the basics, lenders should understand your historical and current financial situation. They will ideally need to see three years of historical financial statements up to the current period, with items including a balance sheet and an income statement (profit and loss) to provide a consolidated presentation at the unit level.

2. List of stores

Next, paint a complete picture of your restaurant holdings. Lenders like to see a list of all your current stores, including the following information:


  • Brand details (if you have multiple brands, identify which brand is associated with each location)
  • Opening or acquisition dates
  • Type of property (whether rented or owned)
  • Lease expiry dates
  • Franchise expiration dates

3. Global investment plan

Be clear about your long-term needs and goals. Ask yourself these questions and document the answers:

  • Looking to build new stores: what is the expected schedule and cost of each project?
  • Acquisition planning: what’s on the radar right now?
  • Ongoing renovations: what is the expected schedule and cost of each?

4. Overview of your organizational structure

Lenders need to know the full picture of your organization. Create a document that details the following:

  • Operational entities (if you have several entities, identify the stores held in each entity)
  • Real estate entities
  • Management companies
  • Holding companies

5. COVID support

Finally, summarize any support your business has received throughout the pandemic, including:

  • Paycheck Protection Program (P3) Fund: How Much Have You Received & Have You Been Forgiven?
  • Landlord Rent Relief: Which Stores and When Did You Get Help? Are you now up to date on rent payments?
  • Relief for franchisors or other suppliers: what were the conditions?
  • One-time COVID Expenses: Have you provided “hero pay” to employees?

6. Bonus information

Consider including professional biographies of the key management team, owners and partners of your business. Lenders want to know who is running your business and where they work. Finally, another pro tip: use a data room to store everything in one place.

Hope this checklist helps relieve any anxiety you have about the process. Lenders will appreciate your planning and take note of your ability to demonstrate that you have the pulse of the business.

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