Those words are sometimes scary. Especially if all your invoices are stashed in a desk drawer, a bag, or box waiting for someone to input them into your accounting system that isn’t up and running yet. As soon as the front doors of a new restaurant open the back door is inundated with paperwork. Invoices suddenly appear. Statements arrive. Bills show up out of nowhere. Who would have thought that the preparation of food could have such a lengthy paper trail? And, unless you happen to be a wizard with numbers and data, the best decision a restaurant owner can make is to hire a competent bookkeeper.
There are numerous options in the bookkeeping department. But remember, your bookkeeper is the one person that oversees the operation from the most important view with the numbers in mind. Attempting to save money in this area will cost you more than you could imagine. As soon as you get close to opening, hire a bookkeeper that has restaurant knowledge. Do not be tricked into thinking any bookkeeper will do. You need someone that can speak produce, discuss dairy, and talk turkey.
A bookkeeper with a track record of successful restaurant operations will help your vendor credibility. Don’t scrimp on qualifications because of a few dollars. A good bookkeeper can save more money than you will be paying them. Hire for the future. Don’t think over qualified is bad. If all goes well you will need those qualifications once the house is packed and you are scouting for a second location. A good bookkeeper allows for more scouting time.
And, that is essential. A seasoned financial person can assist in growing the company. Often, they will be the anchor that gives the nod or the nay on expansion. They will be in thick of the data. They will be inputting invoices, daily expenses, sales, customer count, and food costs. All the things you were going to be doing when you have the time. If you are lucky enough to find a bookkeeper with passion they can also help plan your day-parts payroll through analyzing your customer flow.
The passion they possess must be for numbers. They should love them. They will surround them daily. A bookkeeper will be your guide on that long, never ending trail of finance, mapping a plan to effectively use your assets. With the right skills, a bookkeeper can keep your cash flowing, first as a small stream and eventually like the Colorado. They will handle the vendor calls.
Make sure you can communicate with the person you hire and that you trust them. Bookkeeping by experimentation doesn’t work. Believe me. If you’re thinking macro, make sure your bookkeeper is too. Macro vs. Micro never works.
In 1994 I had three restaurants and one qualified bookkeeper- so I thought. Each morning he would give me the report from the night before and would make a very big deal out of the fact that one register was short $5.78, another $8.49, and the third, $2.25. I expressed my concern to Bob, acknowledging the problem, however, if everything else checked out- food costs, inventory, guest checks, charges and customer count, I assured him that the shortages were something I could live with. And, that he should also live with them. I explained he was wasting more time looking for the shortages than he was working the numbers.
In September of that year he informed me at a meeting that he had just gotten the financials done for May. He had some bad news to share. The company had lost $22,000.00 according to May’s financial statement. I told him that the bad news wasn’t the loss. The bad news was handing me May financials in September. He wasn’t around to complete June.
But before we suggested he seek employment at one of our competitors we brought in an assistant to learn what he knew and what he apparently didn’t know.
In a business that deals with perishable product and fickle customers a strong bookkeeper is the backbone of the financial arm of the operation. With the many systems and programs available today, restaurant business bookkeeping is easier than it ever was. And, more people are willing to take on the job that was once passed off to the manager after hours.
Restaurant bookkeeping has evolved into a very systematic science. And with today’s large conglomerate chains, many assistant bookkeepers are just waiting for an opportunity to shine with a small single unit operator with a vision for the future.
When it comes to a bookkeeper, make sure that you have planned for one in your salary expenditures. And, unless you have a strong knowledge of finance, get out of the bookkeeper’s chair and find someone who can sit in it and guide you to success.