Real estate and restaurants: ‘A lot of it’s luck’

For Tuesday’s real estate focus, I interviewed local agents working in both the commercial and residential sectors who have alternate revenue streams during slow seasons.

J. Tucker Beck has been selling real estate with Crye-Leike Commercial for 18 years. But when the market dried up in the fall of 2007, he turned to an old fraternity brother to help him line up a job at Huey’s.

The real estate business is not only affected by sour times, Beck said, but also by luck. You can be lucky to have a good listing, like his recent one on Broad Avenue. Then there’s 151 Madison Ave., which he’s had for sale for 17 years.

“It’s a closed Burger King, it’s a perfect spot for a restaurant,” Beck said. “But it’s going to take somebody that has a deep pocket. It’s more advantageous to buy it than to lease it because the owners won’t spend any money on it to lease it.”

Beck’s retail real estate resume includes openings for Houston’s, Chili’s, Friday’s and “probably a dozen other smalls that never made it.” His line of work also entails office leasing and land sales, because one of the harder things to broker is a lease or a sale on a restaurant.

“Ten to 15 percent of them make it, the rest of them flounder,” Beck said, “It’s the way it works.”

Working in the restaurant business has its own fate as well. Because just like in commercial real estate where you work for commission, bartenders work solely for tips.

“Monday, I was lucky to fill up my bar twice and turn it full of a bunch of lunch patrons,” Beck said. “Tuesday, I had two bar patrons until 2 or 3 o’clock in the afternoon. A lot of it’s luck.”