Recipe for Financial Success: 8 Essential Bookkeeping Tips For Restaurant Managers

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Marlaina Lanese
July 26, 2023
A restaurant manager is using a calculator to do bookkeeping.

Running a successful restaurant goes beyond exquisite culinary skills and impeccable customer service. The financial health of your business ultimately determines the longevity and prosperity of your establishment. As a restaurant manager, understanding the ins and outs of bookkeeping can seem daunting, but it’s a necessary skill to keep your business thriving. 

Managing finances in the restaurant industry is no small feat – it requires diligent bookkeeping practices, strategic financial planning, and a comprehensive understanding of the industry’s unique economic dynamics. These are best achieved not just with your own effort, but with the help of experts, from bookkeepers to accountants, all working as one unified team. 

With this in mind, we’re serving up a fresh batch of essential bookkeeping tips for restaurant managers who aspire to master the recipe for financial success. 

1. Understand Your Financial Ingredients 

Before creating a culinary masterpiece, you must understand the ingredients you’re working with. Similarly, to effectively manage your restaurant’s finances, you must grasp the critical components of restaurant bookkeeping.

Effective bookkeeping allows restaurant managers to keep track of these factors and make informed business decisions. 

  • Revenue: This is the total amount your restaurant earns from selling food, beverages, and other products or services. Accurate daily sales tracking is crucial, allowing for the analysis of patterns and trends over time. This enables you to make sound and informed financial decisions. 
  • Cost of Goods Sold (COGS): These are the costs directly related to producing the menu items that your restaurant sells. Monitoring COGS helps managers understand their food costs and profits better, enabling them to make better decisions when managing inventory, setting appropriate menu prices, and controlling waste. 
  • Labor Costs: These are the expenses related to your employees, including wages, benefits, and payroll taxes. Keeping a close eye on labor costs is essential to managing the restaurant’s overall profitability. 
  • Overhead Expenses: These are ongoing business expenses not directly tied to creating your product, such as rent, utilities, and advertising. 

These can be a lot to take in, especially for those with zero accounting background. It doesn’t hurt to take a few crash courses, just so you at least get a good grasp of the basics. 

2. Organize Your Financial Data 

Much like following a recipe, keeping your books organized can make the process smoother and more efficient. Organizing financial data is a critical aspect of restaurant bookkeeping. It involves the systematic recording, storing, and retrieving of financial transactions.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to this, as restaurants and their respective managers will have their preferred routes. What’s important is that you find and understand what’s best for you, regardless of the accounting record system chosen (e.g., single-entry or double-entry accounting recording system).

To give you a good start, here’s a run-through on the benefits of double entry bookkeeping, so you can assess which one can help you maintain a more organized system. 

A restaurant manager is tracking their bookkeeping records on a computer.

3. Use a Good Restaurant Accounting Software 

Utilize a robust accounting software program specifically designed for the restaurant or hospitality industry. These programs allow you to seamlessly track sales, purchases, payroll, and other financial transactions, giving you a real-time snapshot of your financial health through automation.

Gone are the days of manual bookkeeping. Staying atop the competition and maintaining error-free records necessitates automation. This comes as a big advantage, especially when your restaurant operations start to expand.

4. Maintain Consistency in Bookkeeping

Make sure to record your financial transactions regularly and consistently. This routine can be daily, weekly, or monthly, depending on what works best for your restaurant. Then, once you’ve started, stick to it.

Consistency in bookkeeping reduces the likelihood of errors and oversights. Daily sales, invoices, payroll expenses, and receipts are only a few of the restaurant records that must be consistently reviewed and taken note of. 

5. Separate Business and Personal Finances 

One of the top mistakes committed by restaurant owners and managers is keeping business and personal transactions in one account. This is quite a prevalent practice, especially for small restaurant owners, where there could be that notion that it’s not necessary just yet to have separate accounts.

Ideally, even when your restaurant business is still small, a good bookkeeping practice is keeping personal finances separate from the restaurant’s. Mixing these leads to confusion, making it difficult to accurately assess your restaurant’s financial performance while complicating your tax filings. To maintain accurate records, it’s essential to separate business and personal expenses. 

6. Streamline Your Restaurant's Payroll Process 

Restaurant payroll can be a complex and time-consuming task for managers. It involves paying your staff and withholding taxes, tracking employee hours, managing tips, and complying with labor laws. Streamlining your payroll process can save you time, reduce errors, and ensure compliance.

Like organizing financial data, streamlining your payroll process can easily be achieved through automation by using restaurant payroll software. Push’s cloud-based software will automatically calculate hourly pay, statutory holiday pay, premium pay, and applicable taxes — all while offering real-time payroll reporting. With Push, you can also populate T4s, ROEs, and I-9s with just the push of a button. Just because payroll is crucial to your business, doesn’t mean it needs to take up a significant portion of your time. Chat with a restaurant payroll specialist to get started.

A restaurant manager is using Push, a restaurant payroll software, to complete payroll.

7. Conduct Regular Audits 

Regularly auditing your payroll can help you spot and correct errors, ensuring your employees are paid correctly and on time. Likewise, it also confirms that your payroll processes are still running smoothly and accurately. If any discrepancies are discovered, get to the bottom of it ASAP, not just by rectifying it, but by identifying the root cause.

Staying updated with labor laws, minimum wage rates, and tax requirements is a must. These can change over time, and when those changes come, you’ll have to apply them in your payroll software as well, unless you have an automated system which will update for you, like Push. These changes should be made promptly, as non-compliance can lead to hefty penalties and damage your restaurant’s reputation. 

8. Monitor Your Cash Flow 

Cash flow is the lifeblood of any business, and it’s particularly vital in the restaurant industry, where cash transactions are frequent. Maintaining a healthy cash flow is critical, which means having enough money to cover all your expenses.

Use your accounting software to your advantage, as this can help you monitor your cash flow closely. Regularly reviewing your cash flow statements can help you identify trends, plan for future expenses, and avoid potential cash shortages, all of which are crucial to surviving in the highly competitive restaurant industry. 

A pile of US $100 bills, signifying healthy restaurant cashflow.

Final Thoughts on Restaurant Bookkeeping

Mastering the art of bookkeeping may not be as exciting as creating a new dish, but it’s an essential ingredient in the recipe for your restaurant’s financial success. By implementing these bookkeeping tips, restaurant managers can gain greater control over their finances, make informed business decisions, and turn their culinary passion into a profitable venture. By keeping organized records, managing your payroll effectively, and keeping a close eye on cash flow, you can navigate the restaurant industry's financial challenges and turn your culinary dreams into a prosperous reality. Keep stirring the pot, taste-testing your financial strategies, and refining your recipe for success. Bon appétit!

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July 2023


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