Labor costs contribute to a large portion of your overhead in a restaurant and catering business. As the Houston Chronicle notes, keeping your restaurant labor costs around 30 percent is ideal. But even if you’re able to keep to that, 30 percent represents a big chunk of your top line revenue all going to one area. It’s crucial that you manage things properly so your business can be successful. If it sounds tricky, don’t worry. It’s not. With a basic understanding of restaurant accounting, you can follow these tips to managing your restaurant labor cost.
To calculate your labor costs, you first need a handle on your payroll expenses. Don’t repeat the mistake that many people make when they get started. Your restaurant labor costs don’t just include salaries. There are taxes, benefits, and insurance that factor into your calculations. If you leave that stuff out, your books might look great until you get to the end of the year and realize your profits aren’t quite where you expected. But what does that mean exactly?
Say you’re paying an employee $12 per hour. Every business offers different benefits, of course, but when you add that on, along with taxes, it could be costing you more like $15 per hour. Don’t forget those details because it’s important to calculate your labor expenses.
Once you’re able to make an accurate assessment of your payroll expenses, there’s an easy formula for calculating your restaurant labor cost percentage. Just take your total payroll expenses by the period (it’s up to you to decide whether that’s weekly, monthly, or yearly) and divide it by your total sales in the same period. Multiply that number by 100 and you’ll have your percentage.
For example, if your payroll expense for a given week is $2,500, and during that same week you brought in $9,700 worth of profits, divide $2,500 by $9,700, and you get about 0.26 or a 26 percent labor cost. That’s below the 30 percent benchmark, which is a good thing for your profit margins.
Once you’ve established your labor cost, it’s time to properly manage it within your budget. Not every period will bring in the same sales. So that means your percentage can fluctuate week-to-week, month-to-month, or year-to-year. Consider these three important steps to get a handle on your restaurant labor costs and keep them as consistent as you can.
When it comes to compliance with labor laws, there are two main buckets you should be thinking about: tips and overtime.
You can’t always pay your staff as much as you would like. Margins are tight in the restaurant business. Each state has rules about the minimum wage for tipped workers. So make sure you understand those regulations. But also remember that the restaurant and catering industry offers other perks that your employees are looking for.
Mainly, people like to work in the food service for the flexibility. With that mind, the best way to build relationships and create a positive work environment is to work with people to create a schedule that allows them that flexibility, while offering a pay rate that’s competitive and matches their skillsets. People don’t often leave restaurant jobs because of the pay. Just remember that the flexibility you offer needs to fit within your budgeted labor costs. You still need a team that comes to work when you need them.
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