Bridging the Communication Gap

QUESTION:

It seems like my chef and my accountant are never on the same page. How can I solve that problem?

ANSWER:

I am convinced that chefs speak a language that’s all their own. The same can be said about accountants, who have their own way of expressing results of operations in financial statements, QuickBooks reports and balance sheets. A chef, on the other hand, often thinks in terms of plate costing, gross profit, daily ticket average, butts in seats, comps and voids, ingredients stocked, top 10 sellers, top 10 losers, etc.

As an accountant, I have had to learn chef-speak to avoid a communication gap when using accountant tools to portray a restaurant’s operational results. For example, it’s inaccurate to use monthly paid invoices to calculate food cost percentage in relation to daily net sales, especially when the standard reporting in many accounting software packages doesn’t account for chef-speak and the types of analytics typically used by restaurateurs.

As I’ve said in this space many times before, today’s restaurateurs need daily report cards and weekly reporting to operate a profitable restaurant. For most accountants, it’s a struggle to assemble the right data from POS systems, bank statements, check stubs and vendor invoices in order to provide accurate monthly operational results. In today’s digital world, your chef would benefit greatly from receiving that information on at least a weekly basis and preferably every day. And the results need to be presented to the chef in a format and language that makes sense to him. With this data in hand, he can spot problems sooner, make adjustments quickly and run a more efficient, moneymaking kitchen.

For all restaurant operations, I recommend using universally accepted charts of accounts to consistently report income and expenses. Additionally, you’ll want to find a way to maintain daily and weekly records on sales and expenses and provide these analytics to the chef to help him improve kitchen efficiency. Finally, start requiring chefs and accountants to learn each other’s languages and points of view so that they can clearly communicate accurate operational results to the boss!

QUESTION:

Our owner is fixated on numbers—it drives me crazy sometimes!

ANSWER:

That’s because the owner has learned that restaurant operation boils down to a math game! Once you identify all of the moving parts that contribute to bottom-line profits and build a system to measure results, the game begins.

To create a consistently profitable model, operators learn by trial and error—change this recipe, switch out ingredients, increase portions here and cut back there. If keeping up with these numbers isn’t your bag, find someone to help you, but your boss is right in requiring as many accurate numbers as possible to monitor his restaurant’s operations. As mentioned above, it all starts by getting the chef and accountant together in the same room. Make them talk to and learn from each other, and encourage teamwork!