Do you “know” the area where you are wanting to open this business? If so, start looking on the internet for available properties. And try CraigsList, there are many properties listed there under Business/Commercial. You may even find a restaurant that has closed it’s doors that you can lease with all of the equipment in place. I know here in MI there are quite a few restaurants that are on the block to rent or for sale.
Personally, I tried working with some agents before giving up and going with a mobile unit. What drove me nuts is that it was difficult to even get anyone to return a phone call. I also found that the rents that were being asked were ridiculous for the area when market values have crashed. I offered reasonable numbers, and those properties are still vacant. I figure I will be better off as a mobile unit as I can go to where the people are, instead of trying to get them to come to me, especially in this economy.
And have you spoken with the local health dept yet? They can give you some good leads for established restaurants that have shut their doors. You might find a real deal there, or someone else’s nightmare.
I never even thought of craigslist I will check it out. I know areas I want that has lots of foot traffic. Some places I have seen cost as much as $6 per SF while you go down a few blocks and it goes down to $2.5 Per SF.
If I go to places with less foot traffic but has parking I can get for less then $2 Per SF.