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If you’re a restaurant owner or manager, you know there are many contributing factors to the success of your business. Not only do you need great food and an excellent location to keep the front of the house full, you also must have a detailed accounting system to keep the back of the house straight. Since there’s little room for error, you may also need to know how to do bookkeeping for a restaurant. Even though you will likely have a professional accountant’s help, understanding the process can make all the difference in your profits. The average restaurant profit margin is 2-6% — though estimates put the number at anywhere from 0-15%, depending on the type of restaurant you operate. That’s why it’s critical you have a firm handle on the revenue and expenses in your restaurant. Thankfully, bookkeeping software can do a lot of the heavy lifting for you. There are plenty of choices on the market today. However, when purchasing any software, you need to make sure it will integrate with your other systems, most importantly your POS and restaurant inventory management system. If you pick the right integration with your restaurant inventory management system, for example, you’ll be able to do things like automate your restaurant accounts payable. Those types of integrations will make life much easier for you. Here’s an overview of how to do bookkeeping for a restaurant.

Hire an expert

Unless you are an accounting major, you probably want to hire a bookkeeper to help you. There are many issues with restaurant finances. You’ll need someone who understands both the front of the house operations and back of the house management, who can help make sure you are not losing money due to costs, waste and other issues that impact profit.

Know your chart of accounts

Once you have the software, you need to know your chart of accounts. This includes assets, liabilities, equity, revenue, and expenses. You usually can download a restaurant copy list into your software and edit the ones needed for a restaurant. They will include subcategories like supplies and marketing costs. The chart of accounts is the list of your financial statements and essentially the heartbeat of your accounting system. You’ll be able to see how you are making money, or losing it. You want to set up the chart of accounts so it can give you the key metrics you need to make decisions. However, don’t set them up so there are too many subcategories, as you may get lost in the data.


Most restaurants outsource payroll, but you can also do it yourself. Most accounting software has features where you can monitor payroll. This will allow you to keep detailed reports on time-tracking. Your employees can log their own hours, and the information is compiled into a report for you. With this type of software solution, you can break down payroll reports by your service staff, kitchen staff, bar area, etc. If you are thinking about doing payroll on your own, remember that it can be a complicated process. There are changes in tax and labor laws, and required filings. If you are not a payroll expert, spend some time researching what goes into it if you are thinking about doing it yourself.

Accounts Payable

You’ll have bills to pay, and with a restaurant, there can be many. Here’s where your bookkeeping software and inventory management system can help you. You’ll need to pay vendors for food, liquor and other beverages, linens, etc. To make this process productive and efficient, it makes sense to have software that keeps tabs on everything for you. High-quality restaurant inventory management systems can automate the process with many of your vendors. You can also have vendors email you their invoices. Any that are not automated or emailed should be scanned into your system. The IRS requires a copy of the actual invoice that they can read.

Daily Sales

Restaurants need to keep track of daily sales. While you can select other options, like monthly sales, the daily sales record is the most accurate, and it’s one you can easily audit if necessary. While you can use other systems like detailed accounting ledgers, it’s probably best to import the sales directly into your POS system. Regarding categories, the general list includes:
  • Food
  • Alcohol
  • Non-alcohol
  • Sales tax
  • Gift certificates (if applicable)
Some operators choose to also break out payments: cash, credit card, sales promos, etc.


There’s a lot of action in a busy restaurant. Between food, drinks, and new deliveries, your inventory is always changing. That’s why an inventory management system is essential. It will allow you to simplify ordering, eliminate waste, perform food costing calculations and ultimately improve profitability at your restaurant. Learning how to do bookkeeping for a restaurant is an important part of managing a restaurant. While it may seem complicated if you are not a numbers person, the majority of restaurants use various software programs to help them keep on top of sales and inventory. Just remember to find software that will seamlessly integrate your bookkeeping, POS and inventory management solutions. MarketMan is a complete restaurant inventory management system that integrates with popular POS systems and bookkeeping software like Quickbooks. We can help you track your inventory and automate your accounts payable process. Contact us to learn more.

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