Who knew selling carpet cleaning to restaurants could be so easy?

Hey Steve,


I got a call from a guy that owns three different restaurants here in town. He wants an estimate. I’m thinking great, I’m gonna go waste my time giving an estimate that he is in no way going to accept. I wanted to just say “No, I don’t do commercial” but he was a referral from a real estate agent that sends me lots of work so I agreed to give it a look. I figured that he’s got to be paying the going rate of 15-20 cents per square foot now so I’ll just charge my current residential rate (.40) and blow him out of the water and be done with it.

Each restaurant has about 400 sq ft of carpet in the middle with booths going down the sides so I tell him $160.00 and get ready to leave. He says OK. I’m thinking “WHAT? OK, what do I do now?” So thinking fast I tell him that he moves the tables and chairs. “No problem.” I’m thinking what’s it going to take to get out of this? So I say “I need to do this at least every 3 months or better yet once a month because if the carpet gets trashed I don’t want to clean something that will never come up and have to spend double time trying to clean it.” He agrees to clean them once a month.

So now I reluctantly get to clean 3 restaurants once a month for a total of around 500 bucks.  Oh well, sometimes you just can’t find a way to get out of work! I would have never guessed it was so easy to sell a commercial account.   So Steve, how much commercial work did you do in your company?

Taken Aback in Texas

Hi Taken,

Waaaayy back in 1976 I was too green and too ignorant to know that conventional wisdom says:

a) Restaurants wouldn’t have their carpets cleaned every month or even every two weeks.

b) They wouldn’t pay what I needed to make a profit.

c) They wouldn’t give me a key.

The very first restaurant owner I pitched said, “How often should I have this done and how much will you charge?” I foolishly and blindly blurted out, “You need to have it cleaned at least once a month and it will cost you $90.00. Oh, and by the way, we’ll need a key to let ourselves in because we’ll do it at 6:30 AM.” He says, “OK.” You see, Taken, I was too “stupid” to know it couldn’t be done.

16 years later we were still cleaning this restaurant every month. The price? Still $90.00, believe it or not. The time required? Our “choreographed” routine had us at 40 minutes, drive up to drive away. (And the place was located in the center of our market area.) Our employees would arrive at 7:00 AM (we didn’t like to get up quite as early), bang out the job (easy to do after so many years) and be to the first residential job at 8:00 AM already $90.00 to the good for the day.

16 years later when I sold the business we had over 50 regular, contracted monthly restaurant and bar accounts. Keys to all of them, excellent per hour return and the cash flow was incredible.

I calculate my one “stupid” reply to that restaurant owner brought me in around $40,000.00 over 16 years. Not bad, especially when you multiply that times 50. A few were less, but most accounts were more. As my mother always said, “It never hurts to ask.”

It worked for me (and here is how I did it) and I am sure it will work for you.


P.S: The hidden benefit to all this long term regular contract commercial work? When prospective buyers of my company saw a three inch high stack of contracts that had been with us for five, ten or fifteen years, their eyes saw dollar signs.

So who says restaurants won’t pay good $? Not only now, but when it comes time to “cash out”? Only “Conventional Wisdom” and we all know what that is worth!

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