There are many details to keep track of during the process of buying or selling a restaurant. Beyond the brick and mortar, there are many digital assets to manage during the transition phase. Part of what you’re paying for when purchasing a restaurant is the brand reputation and web history. To prevent issues down the road, it's best to make sure you speak with your attorney to have all the necessary information.
One of the most important items to keep track of is the restaurant’s domain name (or web address). Transferring ownership of the domain name will assure that the new owner receives renewal notifications from the registrar. If a domain comes up for renewal and the new point of contact doesn’t receive the notification, the domain name will expire. With some quick action, the domain name can sometimes be recovered. However, if the domain name is purchased by someone with bad intentions, it can be a much more challenging process.
If a domain name is lost, the valuable search engine optimization (SEO) associated with it is erased. The challenge then becomes finding and purchasing a new domain name appropriate for the restaurant, updating all of the collateral branding pieces, online listings, social media, (possibly email accounts) and starting from scratch with SEO.
Note: Even if you plan to rebrand the restaurant and the old web address will no longer be used, there is value in “pointing” or seamlessly redirecting the current domain name at the newly purchased domain name to capture visitors looking for the old business and help promote the new business.
If the restaurant uses a third-party hosting service for its website, be sure to get record of the login information and contact information of the service provider. You will also want to update your contact information and payment information with this service in order to avoid any disruptions. The same applies to websites on other platforms like WordPress or Drupal. Regardless of the platform, there will be login information to access the website’s admin, as well as the hosting service.
Google Business Profile
Next to the website, the Google Business profile is one of the most important listings and is one of the first ways guests will find your restaurant online. Google allows you to update the details of your restaurant listing (eg. hours, offerings, website link, ordering link, reservations and reviews). Following these steps from Google, the current owner can easily transfer ownership of the profile over to the new owner right from their Google admin.
Social Media Platforms
Make sure you are granted access to any existing social media accounts. There’s a lot of value in the current audience, reviews and content in these accounts that you will want to maintain and grow going forward. Generally, the new owner’s information can be added under the Settings or Profile section and/or you can share the login credentials.
Sometimes a business’s email isn’t provided by the same service as the website host/provider, so be sure to get the information on the email accounts used by the restaurant. This includes the name of your email provider and the login credentials for the administrator’s account. This will allow you to respond to emails, as well as create and remove email addresses as needed.
Reservations and Online Orders
If the restaurant uses third- party services for online reservations and online ordering, inquire about the details of the services so you understand how much you’ll be paying, how they work, and how to access the accounts.
Gift Card Revenue
If gift cards or gift certificates are being sold, ask how they are fulfilled and which provider supplies the gift cards so you can order more when needed. If the website uses a third party service to process online gift card purchases, be sure to update the bank account information so future deposits are made into the correct bank account.
Another valuable asset to maintain is a database of customer contacts that have opted to receive communications from the restaurant. Ask for the login credentials to the email newsletter service so you can either keep utilizing the service or export the contact list for use elsewhere.
Ask who designed the logo, menu layout including brand colors and fonts. If you need assets created for the website, social media or advertising, As you and your team get settled into your new restaurant roles, you can decide which services and accounts to maintain and which to cancel. Ideally, you’ll be able to have ongoing communications with the previous owner for any questions that come up, but it will be much easier to make these decisions if you have inquired about the usernames and passwords ahead of time.