Whether you’re starting a new business or prepping your taxes for another year, hiring a restaurant accountant may be on your mind. Even the most business-savvy restaurateur could use an accountant to help handle the ins and outs of the restaurant’s finances — particularly given the sheer amount of daily responsibilities a restaurant owner has to juggle already.
By understanding what an accountant does — and knowing what to look for in a restaurant accountant specifically — you can hire a great fit for your business and set your restaurant up for success.
What can an accountant do for my restaurant?
This might seem obvious, but record-keeping and general accounting services are a core part of your restaurant accountant’s job. Some restaurant owners assume since they keep track of their finances themselves, they don’t need an accountant.
While it’s important for business owners to do day-to-day bookkeeping and financial recording, your accountant can help streamline your accounting process, keep track of your budget, and also see the bigger picture of your long-term finances. Which leads to…
Many restaurant owners have backgrounds in the food industry, but might not have background in finance. Or you might have a background in finance, but maybe you’re new to the food industry, where financial planning can be quite different.
Hiring a restaurant accountant is often about bringing a new perspective, one with years of experience that can suggest viable paths to business growth. An accountant can help you plan your target goals and look out for financial trends within the industry. Your restaurant accountant could also offer insurance advice, find ways to trim costs without cutting quality, help you evaluate your menu prices, and even research your potential for expansion.
As you and your employees work hard in the day-to-day aspects of the business, your restaurant accountant can help take a step back and see the forest for the trees.
Tax Advising and Auditing Help
Many individuals only go to an accountant when it’s tax time, and certainly that’s a service your restaurant can consider use your accountant for. Not only can your accountant make sure your restaurant is complying with federal and state tax law, but they can help you plan throughout the year so that your deductibles go smoothly by the time December comes around.
If a restaurant is audited, whether for taxes or during the bank loan process, restaurant accountants can also assure the auditor that the business’ financial documents are correct.
How do I narrow down my choices for restaurant accountant?
As you’re researching accountants, you can ask your peers in the local restaurant scene who they use. What do they like about their accountant? What has improved since hiring them?
From there, you’ll want to interview any potential restaurant accountants before you choose who to hire. This will give you a sense of who they are and what they can bring to your business. Here are some questions you would want to ask your potential restaurant accountant before you make your decision:
Have they worked with restaurants before?
Already having experience working with restaurants is a good sign. An experienced restaurant accountant should know what goes into food ordering and inventory, menu pricing, and the specific tax codes for restaurants. And if they share references (always a good thing to ask for!), it might be worth your time to contact those restaurant owners and ask what they think of the accountant’s work.
Also, if you offer special online ordering for shipped items (like jams, bottled sauces, etc.), seek out a restaurant accountant that has experience in ecommerce. You can also ask if they’re a CMA, or a Certified Management Accountant. CMAs require an undergraduate degree in a related field, so if their undergraduate degree matches the restaurant business, that can be helpful.
Are they local?
There are benefits to having an accountant whose office is in your community. For one, it means they’re more likely to know the market in your area, and be more on the pulse of local financial trends. It also means more one-on-one in-person meetings.
Now, hiring an accountant located outside of your area isn’t unheard of, by any means. If you’ve found a candidate that fits your business needs and has expansive experience helping restaurants, you can always communicate through phone calls, online video meetings, and email.
What financial strategies do they see benefiting your restaurant?
You want a restaurant accountant with a proactive mindset to their clients’ businesses. They should bring practical, specific financial planning ideas to the table. You also would want them to be open to answering any questions you might have, especially if you don’t come from a financial background.
Your accountant should be able to break down their short-term and long-term plans for the finances so you can completely understand your responsibilities within that plan.
What are their fees?
Be as direct as possible when discussing how much their services will cost. You know what your budget is, and any solid candidate should have rates competitive with accountants in your area.
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Rewards Network® does not provide tax, legal, or accounting advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal, or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction.