Tight credit markets and a weak economy have made financing a new restaurant a tough sell.

It’s still possible to close a deal, though. Just be prepared to put up more of your own money.

“Before the lending crisis began, you had people able to secure loans on the order of 90 percent of their development needs,” said Don Fox, chief operating officer for the 352-unit Firehouse Subs.
“In this environment, people are working in the range of certainly no more than 70 percent and some have tightened up where they will loan no more than 40 or 50 percent of the project cost.”
Startups aren’t the only ones taking the hit. Because many fast casual chains grow by franchising, the credit crunch means operators are scaling back expansion plans. According to Fox, Firehouse fell short of its growth goal in 2008 and plans to open 50-60 in 2009, nearly half of the restaurants it could have opened in 2007.