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Top Three Accounting Best Practices for Restaurants

Nov 12, 2015 9:42:00 AM / by Brian Paulson posted in restaurants, small business accounting

Looking out over a crowded dining room is one way to measure success in the restaurant industry, but it may not be the most effective benchmark to gauge profits. Profitable restaurants are backed by sound accounting practices and consistent reporting.

A recent survey of independent restaurant owners asked its members a series of questions regarding the use and frequency of common accounting best practices. Best practices covered were:

  • Daily recording of sales and receipts
  • Detailed cost-recording of purchase invoices
  • Weekly food and labor cost reporting
  • Counting and computing inventory on a weekly or monthly basis
  • Tracking key inventory item usage on a daily or weekly basis
  • Designating key persons for accounting-oriented tasks
  • Using a POS system for tracking time & attendance

From the survey, three accounting best practices stood out among profitable restaurant owners. 

  1. Maintain a monthly financial profit and loss statement.

    While monthly financial statements are a good idea for any small business, it is especially important for restaurant owners to be on top of the data. According to the survey, 73% of the operators that received monthly financials reported being profitable. On the flip-side, only 49% of respondents that received just quarterly or annual statements were profitable.


  2. Report food and labor costs on a weekly basis.

    It’s no surprise that food and labor costs are the largest thorns in restaurant owners’ sides. Monitoring food and labor compared to sales on a weekly basis helps operators recognize any potential red flags before they become larger issues. In fact, 75% of operators that monitored weekly food and labor costs reported being profitable.


  3. Count and compute inventory on a weekly or monthly basis.

    Keeping track of inventory can be tedious at times; however, 72% of operators in the survey that do an inventory at least monthly indicated that they were profitable. Only 58% of operators that don't compute inventory values reported that they were profitable.


Overall Findings:




The most telling statistic from the survey is that only 29% of operators that didn’t do any of these restaurant accounting best practices were profitable.

Are you applying these best practices for your restaurant? If not, consider an accounting firm to get you started on the path to profitability. 

To learn more about gauging your business, download our restaurant profitability checklist. 


Brian Paulson

Written by Brian Paulson

Brian began working at CSI in 1996, and he purchased the business in 2002. As Owner, his primary role is in the management and growth of the firm. Since 2002, the firm has more than quadrupled in size. In 2009, Brian started CSI’s payroll service to complement CSI’s accounting and tax services. Brian received his Bachelor’s degree from the University of North Dakota, with a double major in Accounting and Financial Management. He’s a member of both the National Society for Tax Professionals and the National Society for Accountants, and he serves on the board of directors for the Professional Association of Small Business Accountants, where he was once president. Brian also serves on the business advisory council for Opportunity Partners, an organization that helps people with disabilities find employment. He’s also contributed to several business books, including Six Steps to Small Business Success and The Lean Mean Business Machine. Fun Fact: To help put himself through college, he used student loans, delivered pizzas, and worked summers in a salmon processing plant in Alaska.