The Columbus food scene is growing with what seems like a new bar or restaurant opening every week. Behind the scenes is restaurant brokerage firm Sokol & Associates.
“We specialize in brokering and selling restaurants and bars,” Owner Randy Sokol says. Businesses hire them to find buyers and buyers work with them to find the perfect spot.
Sokol’s position as co-owner of Tee Jaye’s Country Place Restaurants gives him the industry background to help broker restaurant deals.
“I understand what restaurants do and what they go through,” he says. “I can speak their language.”
A strategic new hire has further expanded the firm’s restaurant vocabulary. Daniel Morris has opened three successful concepts in Central Ohio including Rule 3 in Pickerington, Hubbard Grille in Short North and Denmark on High in the Area District, and will expand the firm’s consulting services. Morris will use his talents to help restaurants solve problems, build sales and make more money.
“We can help anybody in the rest business with their challenges, and if we can’t, we can point them in the right direction,” Sokol says.
Consulting services really encompass anything to do with a restaurant, from rewriting food and beer menus, to streamlining operations to doing an entire evaluation of a business from A to Z.
Business brokering is currently 90 to 95 percent of Sokol & Associates’ operations, with plans to expand the consulting percentage.
“Activity is very strong now,” Sokol says. He adds that the brokering business is typically strong every year as there are all kinds of reasons that restaurants go out of business that don’t necessarily relate to the business itself or the economy.
Although they have a statewide presence, Sokol & Associates has a pulse on the trends happening in the restaurant industry in Central Ohio.
“The one trend I do see is the restaurants from Cleveland and Cincinnati are all trying to come to Columbus right now,” he says, adding that Columbus is probably the most vibrant place in the state for restaurants and bars. Within the last year, Columbus has welcomed Cincinnati-based Bakersfield and Cleveland-based Melt, with two more Cincy imports, Tom+Chee and Nada, on the way.
Sokol and Associates have also identified the two hot-spots for new restaurants and bars – Short North and the OSU campus area. While there isn’t a lot of inventory in the area, owners are attracted to these locations because of the high traffic, especially by foot.
Whether its full-service or fast-casual, “Our business is really made up of the local restaurants, the mom and pop restaurants,” Sokol says. The firm has worked with local restaurant powerhouses like Cameron Mitchell and Liz Lessner.
He notes that many of the local chains have started to grow. A few years ago local chefs were opening their own concept restaurants, but Sokol sees a shift towards opening additional locations or branches of existing groups.
For more information, visit sokolandassociates.com.