I’ve been preaching the importance of having a restaurant budget since becoming a restaurant coach in 2003. In fact, I can tell you, if you don’t want to depend on dumb luck, your budget is critical to your restaurant’s success.
When it comes to excuses for not having a restaurant budget, I’ve heard them all. The problem with these excuses is they stop you from doing the next best thing that will improve your restaurant and your life. Here are the top six excuses for why most restaurant operators never create a budget.
1. I don’t have time.
Boo frickin’ hoo? You must be kidding me. You’re in the toughest business I know. Instead of focusing on saving $15 an hour and flipping a burger yourself, be an owner, work on budgets, marketing, leading your team, developing your managers and holding them accountable. That is what you’re supposed to do.
2. I don’t understand the numbers.
That’s not an excuse. Maybe your chart of accounts isn’t set up properly, and you need to change it so that you can better understand your numbers. In fact, I teach people that you tell your accountant what your chart of accounts looks like and what numbers goes in them so that you know your numbers. Your accountant doesn’t dictate your chart of accounts.
3. I don’t need one.
Right. How do you know what success looks like? Are you just going to use industry averages? Name a successful business that doesn’t operate with a budget unless it’s just dumb luck and it happens. You may have been successful without a budget, but then COVID hit, and it robbed you of all your money, your cash flow was nonexistent. And now for the first time in your life, you’re going, oh, shoot, I need to make a change. Well, how do you make a change without a budget? It’s your proactive plan for success.
4. I have a budget I created when I opened my restaurant 10 years ago.
Oh, my God. That’s laughable, right? Most restaurant owners say, “Yeah, I have a budget. I had a budget when I asked for money from the bank.” Well, that’s 10 years old. Even if it’s one year old or three months old, it’s old. See, you must update that plan for success every single month because I have news for you: You’re never going to hit your budget, but you are going to be able to see what systems you need to put in place to change your reality.
5. I know what I need to do in sales to break even.
What the heck does break even have to do with making money? See, I’ll bet money you don’t know what your breakeven point is. You just kind of have a general idea of what you’ve got to do in sales before you’ve covered all your expenses. But that can change. If your managers start bleeding labor because they’re not paying attention, that breakeven point gets creeps up quickly. If you are not looking at portion controls and preventing theft and stopping the dumb mistakes that happen daily, your cost of goods sold can creep up on you. But without a budget and active monitoring of your budget, it takes a while before it’s painfully obvious that your breakeven point isn’t where you thought it was. You’ve become less efficient every single day and it keeps going up. That’s not how you plan for profitability.
And finally, 6. I’m following the industry standards.
So many restaurant owners are looking to a big restaurant “authority,” like the National Restaurant Association, for direction, and they say your food cost should be 34 percent and labor cost should be 33 percent. Well, number one, that’s a 67 percent prime cost. Heck, even if you used the old-fashioned numbers of a 65 percent prime cost – total cost goods sold plus total labor costs, including taxes, benefits, insurance – that total is still too high. And I’m here to tell you, if you do $850,000 in annual gross sales, your prime cost target should be 55 percent or less. That’s 10 points! For every $1 million in gross sales a restaurant does in a year, that’s $150,000 in bottom line profitability. PLUS, your cost of goods sold and your labor cost targets vary on the type of restaurant you have. Think pizza and pasta vs a steakhouse. An average is good for nothing. So if using these industry standards is your reason why you don’t need a budget, I guarantee you’re losing a lot of money.
Stop letting excuses hold you back. Start working on your budget today if you’re tired of not being able to leave your restaurant because no one else knows how to run it.