Like you said, if you describe any part of the business, they figure out which restaurant it is. The seller does not realize that he has made a demand upon you which is not in his own best interests. If it absolutely imperative to him that the perception of discretion be maintained then he should realize that the illusion of anonymity will cost him in the net price he will get for his business. It puts him in a weaker negotiating stance with potential buyers. and and . he won't really be anonymnous, he'll just be pretending that he is.
The other idea that struck me was how about using a satellite image from Google Maps? Depending upon how much detail you or your client wanted to reveal, you could indicate to a prospective buyer the general geographic location along the waterfront. Give us an update on your progress with this intriguing listing. I'll be watch for more details...
Owner may have excellent reasons for doing so. - He / She doesn't want to upset the staff or patrons. Knowing it is for sale might cause good employees to start circulating their resumes. Losing key staff could even devalue the business at a fine restauraunt.
Owner should acknowledge to you that he is blocking these potential buyers 1. Patrons, Chefs, Townfolk, and others who hold the restaurant in high regard, were not looking to buy A restaurant, but don't want to miss the opportunity to own this one. 2. People who assume the least from what information is available to them. From what you have told us so far. A waterfront restaurant could be 300 seats breakfast lunch and dinner 1500 meals a day. with full bar dance floor, dining on the deck and a pier... or it could be a 12 seater crab shack, with paper plates and squeeze bottle tartar sauce. If seller allows you to describe it adequately, anyone who reads the ad and knows the area will be able to figure out which restaurant it is. If seller doesn't allow you to describe it...Hey, what about pictures, You aren't going to use pictures are you? So his intentions to be discreet will be thwarted. His employees WILL find out. ... unless you don't market it at all and don't show it.
Your seller is maybe asking you to find some interantional businessman that will by it sight unseen? You could tell him you've received a couple of inquiries from Nigeria but you don't think they are serious.
How much of a discount from value is he willing to trade off because he / she wants her / his privacy and discretion 20%, 30 % - He is asking you to market the restaurant with anchor tied around your waste.
My guess, is your target market is not going to be a local (ie the same town). It might be NYC or interior CT. As a business owner, this is reasonable for a seller to ask and for a buyer to expect.
I've nothing to add, but am extremely interested in your outcome. There was a similar situation in my office last year which was never fully resolved because the owner ended up selling to a relative... Please re-post as you come across solutions or email me directly. Thanks! Best of luck!