Restaurant Owners: Pay Attention to Those Bank Statements!

Restaurant owners are constantly playing catch-up. The owner of a busy eatery rarely accomplishes everything on his or her daily list. In my case, snuffing out the fires from the previous day’s mistakes often consumed my day and proved to be a major obstacle on the road to success.

That’s especially true when it comes to keeping up with what can seem like an endless stream of paperwork.

A Restaurant Runs on Paperwork

Yes, paperwork. It’s as much a part of the restaurant business as what goes on in the kitchen. In fact, it is more important. Ignoring paperwork is a fatal flaw for a restaurant owner who might otherwise succeed.

I faced the dilemma early on in my career. Fortunately for the business, my employees and my partners, I recognized the problem in time. I handed the task to someone else — and because of that move managed to build a successful group of restaurants.

But today, something as simple as checking your bank and credit card statements is more important than ever before.

What’s Hiding in YOUR Bank Statement?

Yesterday I spoke with a restaurateur who had recently looked at his latest bank statement. He was perplexed when he saw a $2.50 charge for foreign currency conversion. When he called his bank, nobody could explain the charge, but claimed it was “probably part of the new fee structure.”

A great answer – for the bank.

Banks, credit card companies, and even credit unions (they are hardly the end all and be all of the financial world ) are attempting to shore up recent mega-losses with fees that may seem miniscule enough to ignore — unless they’re multiplied by millions of customers.

Passing the Buck Doesn’t Pay

I am sure most restaurant owners take their bank and credit card statements and pass them on to their bookkeepers or accountants to reconcile. That’s a risky practice, because it allows those fees to escape notice or oversight.

Would a bookkeeper know you cancelled your Equifax online subscription three months ago, even though your credit card is still being charged? Would a bookkeeper question the foreign currency conversion charge? Probably not.

And whether we realize it or not, with online banking, buying, and bill paying a daily practice for most of us,  it is easy enough for the bank to slip in a charge or two here and there and never get caught.

The world is moving faster than ever before. Customer service at banks and credit unions – unless you are fortunate, as I am with one San Francisco bank – now consists of a voice-response system that seems designed to aggravate you so much that you never make the mistake of calling again.

Rule #1: Never Trust a Bank

Somewhere along the line many financial institutions decided they were doing us a favor by allowing us to do business with them.

Just the other day I was getting a lecture from a Northern California credit union officer on how he was trying to help me, even as his faux pas cost me a substantial amount of time and money.

Yes, as tedious a task it may be, checking those credit card and bank statements for unapproved charges — no matter how small they are — is a mandatory exercise for all successful business owners.

If you’re putting out fires all day, take a few minutes and hunt for a gem like that foreign currency conversion fee I spotted on my bank statement. Finding it could make you feel like a million bucks.

Or at least, $2.50.