Matthew Sanderson is the lawyer version of a foodie. The shareholder at 120-attorney Looper Reed & McGraw in Dallas has built a career advising start-up and established restaurants, and he’s in the right place to do it: The Dallas-Fort Worth area has more restaurants per capita than any other U.S. metropolitan area, according to the Southern Methodist University Cox School of Business.
Sanderson’s practice has become more complex over the years, due to increased health regulations, zoning challenges and liquor licensing and liability issues.
The National Law Journal spoke with Sanderson, co-author of the Texas Restaurant Law blog, about developments in the industry. His remarks have been edited for length.
The National Law Journal: What’s changed about the restaurant business in the last five years?
Matthew Sanderson: It’s harder these days to open a restaurant, because of financing. There used to be a lot more of them opening.
NLJ: So how do restaurateurs get the money they need?
Sanderson: There’s a lot more seller financing and partnering.
NLJ: What else is different?
Sanderson: Selling alcohol is more complex, at least here in Texas. We used to have dry counties. The code has changed, but people in general have become more conscientious about alcohol and its problems. The [Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission] has cracked down on restaurants and bars not following the rules.
NLJ: What’s the main concern for restaurants right now?
Sanderson: The biggest challenge is coming up with ideas to reinvent themselves. They spend a lot of money on a build-out before they open, and they crush competition for first six to nine months. Then somebody across the street moves in and they are ruined.
NLJ: So what can they do?
Sanderson: They need to have continuity mixed with breath of fresh air. The hard part is finding the money.
NLJ: Who are some of your clients?
Sanderson: We represent independent restaurants and franchisees of major restaurant chains, including Applebee’s, Jack-In-The-Box and Papa Murphy’s.
NLJ: What’s one of your favorite places to eat?
Sanderson: The Meddlesome Moth [in Dallas]. It’s got an eclectic mix, and it’s some of the best food in Dallas.
The photo originally displayed on this article was incorrect and has been replaced by the correct image of Matthew Sanderson.