How to Compare Your Restaurant

It is almost impossible to compare a restaurant’s operations with industry averages.  Organizations like the CRFA aggregate the smallest mom-and-pop with the largest chains to get their averages.  Not many restaurants are “average”, anyway.  Just about all industry statistics are based on surveys, not actual operating results.  Even though such surveys are anonymous, who wants to put down that their cost of sales is 40% or more?  So, the results are often skewed.
There is another way of compiling restaurant operating results.
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Restaurant Fraud & Theft – Part II

Part I in this series focused on fraud and theft up to the point your inventory becomes available for sale.  As we found out, lots can go wrong during the purchasing, receiving and inventory safeguarding processes.  These frauds and thefts involved uncooked food or unpoured alcohol.  Now, let’s uncork a bottle and turn up the heat.
Today, I want to discuss some of the major thefts that happen during “normal” operations.  These thefts involve cooked food or poured alcohol.  These are the ones that take place “right under your nose”.  Today’s post examines food theft.
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Restaurant Fraud & Theft – Part I

IT NEVER HAD A CHANCE TO BE SOLD
Today’s post covers fraud and theft of stock items before they are sold or used in your establishment.  These types of fraud relate to purchasing, receiving and inventory stock keeping.  Subsequent posts will cover additional types of fraud and theft.  These posts discuss one of the most important issues facing restaurateurs.
Any theft of product for sale can result in significant sales and income tax liabilities.  So significant, in fact, that it could put your restaurant or bar out of business.  My restaurant tax blog, Canadian Restaurant Tax Advisor, has a wealth of information about restaurant tax audits and their dire implications for you.
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Make Butchered Inventory Perpetual

The majority of the cost of most entrées comes from the “protein” component – meat or fish.  Chefs try to maintain a consistent portion size, usually based on weight.  Despite consistent portions, the cost will fluctuate depending on the raw purchase cost and the butchering yield.  Even if you don’t have recipes fully documented and costed for every menu item, as a bare minimum, you should know the portion cost of the protein component of every plate.  Also, you need to track the number of portions in inventory at all times.  This will allow you to identify major cost problems that may be occurring.
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Cooking the Books

Rest assured, today’s post is not about tax evasion.  But, it does have a very important implications.  If your food recipes use any alcohol, it’s important to account for it properly.
Proper Accounting
Your food cost of sales should include all of the costs that are incurred in preparing the food menu items.  Sometimes, restaurants forget to include the costs of liquor, wine and beer that are used in food dishes.  Food costs are understated and alcohol costs are overstated.  No big deal to the bottom-line, but it does affect the margins for each category, which are considered in your decision-making.
But there is a far more important reason.
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Cost Control is the Key to Survival

AbacusWhile there are some signs that we may be emerging from the recession, I think you’ll find that consumer behaviour has been changed, perhaps for many years to come.  Even your “well-off” customers are much more price conscious that they have ever been before.  Actually, they are more value conscious.  In order to “survive and thrive”, you have to continuously monitor your restaurant’s value proposition.
While there’s more to the value proposition than your menu and prices, these are the two aspects that can be adjusted fairly easily in the short-term.  These are also the two areas that most restaurateurs fiddle with first, when times get tough.  We could probably add labour into the mix, too.
Recessions always harm the restaurant industry.  People lose their jobs (or worry that they will lose them), cut back on meals outside the home, and spend less when they do go out.  Most restaurants experience a drop in both volume and check averages, often severely reducing (or eliminating) their profits.  To cover their fixed costs, restaurateurs will try everything to keep the customers they have and steal their competitors’ customers.  Most start with price reductions, either through coupons and discounts or with across the board price reductions.  It doesn’t take long to realize that quality or portion sizes have to be reduced to maintain profitable margins.  Easier said than done!
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Counting Inventory a Waste of Time?

I’m sure all restaurant consultants and accountants advise their clients to count inventory regularly.  Depending on how many menu items and ingredients in use, and how many times you count inventory, this simple procedure can represent a very significant time commitment.  Let’s take a closer look at inventory counts and see whether they’re worth the time and effort.
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Restaurant Cost Percentages

I’ve been scouring the net for useful information on a variety of topics related to restaurant cost control.  I have to tell you that it is a pretty discouraging task.  The vast majority of the web sites and blogs offer very little useful information for a restaurateur who wants to manage his or her operations better.  Many blog articles are far too simplistic to be of any use.  It is a waste of time reading (or even scanning them)!  Others  offer a huge number of articles, videos and templates, but usually require you to sign up as a “member” (i.e. customer).  A quick review of their offerings suggest that you are not likely to get your money’s worth.  A few sites offer advice that is, well, wrong.  I hope to correct this deficiency, with an ongoing series of blog entries on this site.  In the mean time, you might consider Joe Dunbar’s blog, Food Cost Control.  Joe’s blog is one of the best I’ve come across so far.  Maybe I have a soft spot for his site, because he’s so analytical!
Today’s topic is restaurant costs.
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Coupon Accounting

When the economy went into a tailspin, a lot of restaurants experienced an alarming drop in sales.  Not only were guests spending less, fewer were dining out and those that were, dined out less often.  Pretty much every restaurant that I knew saw their sales drop by a minimum of 20% – some as much as 40%.  Understandably, this put severe pressure on the bottom-lines of a lot of restaurants.
Restaurateurs were willing to do just about anything to bring a customer in the door.  Many began offering coupons, some for the first time.  Done properly, coupons and other discounts can be a valuable marketing tool, but too often they seriously harm the restaurant’s brand.  Today’s article is not about whether they are useful.  Instead, I want to talk about how we account for discounts and what it means to our analysis of costs.
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