One of the biggest metrics investors look at when purchasing a single-tenant net-leased asset is the guarantee behind the lease. It is a major factor in weighing risk vs. return when it comes to net-leased assets.
It can also be a major factor that is misunderstood or overlooked without careful investigation.
For example, let’s say you are considering the purchase of a Taco Bell net-leased asset:
You perform a quick Google search to discover that Taco Bell is S&P rated BB and operates 7,000 locations!
That is quite a strong concept!
Hold on…You also learn that Taco Bell is actually a subsidiary of Yum! Brands, which owns Taco Bell, KFC, and Pizza Hut comprising of over 43,000 locations!
That must be a risk-free investment then…
Well, not necessarily.
Thinking this is the best investment since sliced bread, you put the property under contract. During the due diligence period, you investigate the lease to learn that it is actually only guaranteed by an entity named “Taco Bell 5 FL Tacos, LLC”…
What does that mean?
Come to find out, the franchisee operating this Taco Bell only has 5 stores…and only ONE of their stores is backing this lease through the referenced entity…
It is easy to see how an investment backed by corporate Taco Bell holds drastically different risk factors than an investment backed by a 5-unit franchisee only offering a 1-unit guarantee on their lease. These are important risk factors that have significant impact on the values you can demand for your investment property and the return you can expect to yield from purchasing one of these properties.
These are also important factors that your broker/investment advisor should be making you aware of and helping you analyze, not only prior to a purchase, but prior to a contract for purchase.
With that in mind, existing guarantees can have upside or downside tied to the strength of what is backing the lease.
The typical rule of thumb in any investment is:
The Higher The Risk, The Higher The Return!
A corporate 20-year Taco Bell lease may sell for a 4.5% cap rate, while a 5-unit Taco Bell lease with just 3 years remaining might sell for an 8% cap rate. With a weaker guarantee or lesser lease term comes more inherent risk, but also more reward.
This can be especially true for your guarantee.
You may take on more risk purchasing the 5-unit franchisee backed lease, but what if a larger 200-unit operator is considering buying out that smaller franchise? If that 200-unit operator buys out your tenant and decides to guarantee the lease with the entire lot of their locations, you could easily gain 100-200 basis points worth of value overnight.
That is what some like to call upside.
KBP Foods, a large franchisee of Yum! Brands concepts, recently acquired 78 KFC locations. According to Nation’s Restaurant News (NRN), this was just one of many recent acquisitions that have helped the operator reach 530 locations in 20 states. One of those purchases was an acquisition as small as four locations in Lawrence and Topeka, Kansas. These units were purchased from franchisees and the investors owning the real estate under those operations must be popping the champagne right about now because their small franchise tenant just evolved into a powerhouse operator and one of the largest Yum! Brand franchisees in existence. Even without a change in the guarantee, the perception of now having a very strong operator can alone impact the value and equity of the investment.
My warning is that it can work in the opposite direction as well.
Part of KBP Food’s feeding frenzy in acquiring locations included 41 locations in Texas directly from Corporate KFC. This is not unexpected. Last year, Yum! Brands announced they would shift the ownership of their stores drastically into the hands of franchisees; taking their 10,000 corporate run stores and shrinking that number to fewer than 1,000 by the end of 2018, according to USA Today.
Those investors that had a corporate KFC lease just had a change of tenant…From Corporate run to franchisee run…overnight. While in some lease structures, the landlord is protected for the life of the lease, there is certainly downside when it is time to re-up and your new tenant has a fraction of the net-worth your previous tenant came to the table with. In the KBP Foods scenario, the downside in equity may not be as dramatic; a tenant shift from Corporate run location to a 530-unit operation, although a sure hit in the risk department, is still a pill you can swallow. Some leases, however, allow for corporate guarantees to revert to franchisee guarantees as small as 10 or fewer units…
That is where there can be downside.
Which scenario strikes a chord with your current portfolio?
Do you have upside or downside?
If these are factors you actively consider when looking at deals, then you are ahead of the game and I would be happy to take you to the next level with the specialized insight I can provide. If you were unaware of these factors or fail to consider them on a regular basis, you and I should connect immediately.
Please reach out and I will make myself available.
I’m helping clients all over the Nation evaluate their upside/downside on a daily basis; analyzing property value, risk, and equity to help clients get clear on their options at any given time within the market and execute on a proactive strategy around these seemingly reactive assets. Feel free to reach out to me for more specific insight around your restaurant investments as I welcome the opportunity to help you do the same even if there is no immediate business to be had on the horizon.