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You can tell a lot about the sign of the times simply by reflecting on one simple activity: dining out. Here's how it's changed in 50 years. Statesman Journal

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Have you always wanted to own your own restaurant? Have you been dreaming of the perfect opportunity to open an eatery all your own?

More than 100 restaurants and restaurant spaces are currently available for sale or lease across Iowa. And some are located in the Des Moines metro.

Even though it seems like a great time to throw your hat into the ring of restaurant ownership in Iowa, both real estate and restaurant professionals say it's best to go into business cautiously — and with a plan.

Interested in Iowa food news? Follow @briantaylorcarlson on Facebook, @BriinDSM on Twitter and @briindsm on Instagram.

"Generally, the Central Iowa economy is doing pretty well," said Peter Brown, principal at Peter A. Brown Commercial Real Estate Services in Des Moines. "But the restaurant business has its own dynamics."

Peter Brown said opening a restaurant is possible for nearly anyone who would like to. "You don't have to have a professional license to open a restaurant." One of Brown's current listings is the former location of Sam & Gabe's at 8635 Hickman Road.

With so much variety in the restaurant industry, it makes the business type unique unto itself. "The restaurant business is driven by trends and the actual operator of the restaurant being a good businessperson so there's a lot of vectors that have to intersect."

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Brown said there is no overarching theme as to why there are so many restaurant spaces for sale or lease, considering each restaurant has its own individuality.

However, for small business owners, Brown said leasing is more cost-effective and easy as opposed to buying — and the more popular option.

"To buy requires more capital and a lot of restaurant owners need to put the capital into the business and not into the real estate."

Some restaurant spaces come with expensive items like grease traps, exhaust hood systems and commercial kitchen equipment, which saves on opening costs.

But with recent restaurant closures, even if you save money on opening a restaurant space all your own, it's still a risky business venture.

"We are going to see contraction this year, so I'm not surprised that restaurants are for sale," said Jessica Dunker, president and CEO of the Iowa Restaurant Association. "Some restaurant closures are going to surprise people."

Dunker said for Des Moines' oversaturated market, prior restaurant experience is crucial. Even then, with the unemployment rate at a very low 2.5 percent, it's difficult to fill restaurant positions. 

"This is not the time to enter a market because you think it would be fun to be in the industry," Dunker said. "It's way too competitive and the margins are way too thin."

Dunker said, on average, restaurants across Iowa make a net profit of $97 per day. "They can't afford mistakes," Dunker said.

Another shake-up in the restaurant industry is that food is no longer consumed inside restaurants in favor of the home or office. Dunker said that 63 percent of food from restaurants are taken away as carryout, delivery or drive-thru.

Third-party delivery services like Grubhub and DoorDash charge fees to both consumers and restaurants.  And they leave the restaurant without a guarantee that proper food handling practices are followed to ensure the quality, temperature and prompt delivery times for their dishes.

The restaurants that are in danger of this contraction? Dunker said it’s the traditional table service restaurants that have not found a way to capitalize on carryout or delivery.

“It's a cultural shift and the restaurant industry is sitting on the precipice of some sort of disruption and we don't quite know what it's going to look like yet."

Restaurants for sale or lease in the metro:

More than 100 restaurants are currently listed for sale or lease on LoopNet.com. And many of them are located in the Des Moines area. These are just a few of them, but be sure to check the online listings for current information.

For lease:

  • 711 S. Ankeny Blvd., Ankeny: The former location of Taste of Texas in Iowa is for lease with 4,000 square feet. Rental rate: $13 per square foot per year
  • 316 Court Ave., Des Moines: This Court Avenue location once housed Goldfinch in its 8,858-square-foot space. Rental rate: $15 per square foot per year
  • 301 E. 1st St., Ankeny: Once Bandana's Bar-B-Q, this space boasts 4,981 square feet and is freestanding. Rental rate: $15 per square foot per year
  • 6250 SE 14th St., Des MoinesLa Hacienda Mexican Restaurant operated in this building with 5,292 square feet. Rental rate: $15 per square foot per year
  • 1024 E. 1st St., Ankeny: Village Inn Restaurant in this 4,728-square-foot building recently closed. Rental rate: $15.25 per square foot per year
  • 110 N. Ankeny Blvd., Ankeny: Two spaces are available for lease at this property, one of which was the former location of Palmer's Deli. Rental rate: $15.25 per square foot per year
  • 3340 Westown Pkwy., West Des Moines: Formerly Hurricane Grill, this building is 7,033 square feet. Rental rate: $13.25 or $18 per square foot per year

For sale:

Other restaurants for sale

Two other restaurants have recently been put up for sale but are not listed on LoopNet at this time:

Namaste India Restaurant:

According to a post on its Facebook page, Namaste India Restaurant is currently for sale. The Indian restaurant is located at 7500 University Ave. in Clive. 

The Redwood Steakhouse:

The Redwood Steakhouse is an iconic Iowa eatery established in 1947. It's located about halfway between Des Moines and Omaha at 1807 White Pole Road in Anita, about three miles south of I-80.

The 200-seat restaurant is still in operation and boasts 3,809 square feet, including the main dining area, bar, private party room and kitchen. List price: $695,000

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