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The new owner of Mendo Bistro will take over an existing lease and a corporation that includes two businesses
<p>The new owner of Mendo Bistro will take over an existing lease and a corporation that includes two businesses.</p>

4 essay contests promise restaurant ownership to winners

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Sure, a culinary school education puts you on course toward owning a restaurant one day. But creative writing majors might have a better shot at the moment. That’s because four separate essay contests taking place this fall will bestow ownership of full-service restaurants—good ones—to their winners. Two of the essay contests involve not just well-established restaurants but the real estate on which they sit. If your dream is to run your own operation, sharpen your pencil and get cracking.

1. The Inn at Villa Bianca, a wedding/restaurant business located in Seymour, CT, is quite a prize. Not only does the winner get the inn, a separate restaurant (Tavern 1757) and a banquet facility, but also a 4,000-sq.-ft. residence, a wedding chapel and a fleet of limos, all of it situated on nine landscaped acres. Current owner Tony Mavuli is throwing in $100,000 in working capital, too. The estimated value of this enterprise: $10 million.

This contest costs $1,000 to enter and the deadline is Dec. 15, 2015.  Essays must be 300 words or less, and there’s a cap of 12,000 on the total number of entries. You can get an idea of what Mavuli is looking for here.

A panel of unnamed judges will decide the winner. Note: this contest and the three others mentioned in this story want hard copy through-the-mail submissions, not emails or videos.

2. Der Essen Platz in Camdenton, MO, features German, French and American cuisine and even has a lake view. It’s ranked as the No. 1 place of 232 restaurants in the Lake of the Ozark area on TripAdvisor. Current chef/owner Noelle Ark says she “needs to retire, being 70 years old, and having several serious health problems.”

Here’s what the contest winner will get:

“There will be one (1) prize which will consist of real property located at 8 Bridal Cave Rd. Camdenton, Mo 65020. Der Essen Platz is a two story building with the main entrance on the upper level, which has two dining rooms seating up to 100 guests and a full service bar, seating 15 people, a large walk-in beer/wine cooler, two bathrooms, and a server prep area. The lower level has three entrances. They access the main well equipped kitchen, prep kitchen, two storage areas and refrigeration rooms. The apartment/office includes two large rooms, a kitchen, dining room and bathroom.

“Der Essen Platz has ample parking and offers handicap facilities. All furnishings and equipment will convey (excluded are artwork and personal items of the owner). The restaurant will be ready to operate when the property is transferred to the contest winner.”

Entry in the contest costs $225 and essays should be 500 words or less. The contest opened on Sept. 15 and closes on Jan. 15, 2016. Twenty-five finalists will be chosen on Jan. 25 and winner gets the keys on January 30, 2016. Ark will select the 25 finalists; an unnamed panel of judges will pick the winner. Essays must be submitted via the U.S. mail.

3. Mendo Bistro in Fort Bragg, CA, doesn’t come with any real estate; the new owner will take over an existing lease and a corporation that includes two businesses. The 88-seat restaurant has a regional reputation and the deal includes ownership of sister operation Barbelow. Both are located in the same building. It’s $100 to enter this essay contest, which is limited to 7,500 entries. Essays should be 250 words or less.

Here are the entry forms and rules for the contest, which is open now and closes on Dec. 18, 2015. Anonymous judges will pick the winner of this contest, too.

What will the winner get?

“The CEO of Ingest, Inc. will present the winner with all existing shares of Ingest, Inc. stock. There are no liens nor taxes nor mortgages due on the business or corporation. It is a turnkey operation with furnishings and equipment. Excluded is personal property...No representation is made by the sponsors that any value is in fact a Fair Market Value. The business is incorporated as Ingest, Inc. d/b/a Mendo Bistro and Barbelow. The business address is 301 North Main Street, Fort Bragg, CA 95437.”

Why give this place away? Chef/owner Nicholas Petti says “In 1999, I was able to open a restaurant on the Mendocino Coast with very little money because people believed in my vision. I would like to give someone else a similar opportunity to pursue their dream. I'm now a tenured professor in the Culinary Arts program at Mendocino College, and I welcome the chance at this stage in my life to give back to the community that has been so wonderful to me, my family and my staff."

4. Borrowed Earth Cafe is a 30-seat raw food, vegan/vegetarian restaurant currently operating in Downers Grove, IL. The prize here isn’t the existing restaurant. The winner receives “the restaurant space including the equipment, tables, chairs, refrigerators, etc. to run their own restaurant dream.” Cost to enter is $125. Essays should be no more than 200 words.

"Most restaurants go out of business, because they have their loans and their rent to pay and then all their start up costs," owner Kathy Living says. "Without all that to worry about, they have a really good chance at a success rate." She and her husband Danny will kick in $5,000 in working capital if 640 entries are submitted. 

Borrowed Earth’s essay contest had an original deadline of Aug. 1. It’s been extended until Oct. 1. The Livings say a variety of potential owners have submitted essays so far.

“We've received contest entries from people who have dreams of opening up all different types of restaurants, from bakeries to bistros and everything in between and all different types of food with different philosophies and ambitions.”

As in the other three contests, the current owners will winnow down the initial entries and unnamed judges will make the final selection.

Be aware that the winner has to be approved by the property manager and sign a new lease.

We don’t think it’s overselling this story to say that never before have there been so many concurrent opportunities to become a restaurant owner without investing much time, money and energy. Aspiring restaurateurs, what are you waiting for?

Contact Bob Krummert at [email protected]

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