Q: What role should my accountant play in my restaurant, beyond keeping up with the numbers?
A: Don’t just think of your accountant as a numbers person. Think of that person as the financial systems advisor for your brand. And don’t just think of your pizzeria as a business. Think of it as a brand; even if you own just one store, it’s still a brand, no different than a national franchise that’s been around for 30 years. Always think of it as a brand and promote it as a brand, since that is what creates your identity.
For most customers, eating out requires an entirely new decision process during the pandemic. They have to determine which pizza brand offers a safe dine-in experience or the best takeout and delivery options. With or without a pandemic, your brand needs to create a consistent experience to the greatest extent possible, and when you have to change that experience, this must be communicated both externally (to your customers) and internally (to your employees). But there’s someone else who needs to know: your accountant.
When pizzeria owners picture their relationship with their accountant, they see themselves dropping off a box of materials at the latter’s office and just walking away. You receive a financial report and a tax return at the end of the year, but what about financial updates throughout the year? On any given Tuesday at 10 p.m., how can you know what your financials look like? And with the pandemic still going on, your CPA also should be instrumental in providing any documentation required for SBA loans or grants you’ve received while leading the charge in new tax strategies.
If you have modified your brand to tweak your sales mix of delivery, takeout, dine-in or catering, your accounting reports need to be adjusted to properly reflect this new activity. You also will want to start generating new key performance indicators to help gauge your progress. These need to be adopted in your new modified brand immediately. And if you are a franchisor with multiple owners, you need to institute a mandate requiring those owners to monitor progress more frequently than in the past. This means your accounting team needs to be up to date on any changes in your company and fully prepared to get the right numbers to the owners.
Again, your pizzeria is a brand, whether you’re a single-unit operator or a franchisor with 100 stores. You need to put systems in place that can be measured, especially if you have modified your operations since the pandemic started in early 2020. With dine-in capacity limited, you need to monitor your efforts daily and weekly—which will probably be more frequently than you’re accustomed to. There is no room for errors when the economy is so fluid—what works this week might not work next week. It’s of paramount importance to get your brand’s systems in place by working closely with your accountant.
The accountant’s job is to give restaurant owners a system in which they feel comfortable and in control of their numbers, knowing those numbers are accurate and that they have an experienced accountant behind them whenever they feel like they’re in over their heads. By building relationships with our clients and always maintaining a positive attitude, we accountants provide a great contact point for any questions or issues related to your financial systems. When the owner feels in control and has constant access to their books, they can make informed, timely decisions about how to manage their business.
In conclusion, to strengthen your restaurant as a brand, your accountant needs to be involved in all aspects of your business and made aware of any and all changes to your brand and your operations. And in addition to preparing financial statements, they should assist you in compiling timely data to send to banks or third parties, like the SBA, for loan documentation or tax credit programs. Timely accounting data is critical during these times and must be made available securely.