One of the most important and telling numbers of any restaurant is its Prime Cost.
Prime Cost is the total of food and beverage costs plus all payroll expenses including wages paid to management and staff and payroll taxes and related benefits.
Prime Cost is a key indicator of a restaurant's profit potential and how well management is managing the restaurant's biggest and most volatile costs.
Generally accepted industry rules of thumb tell us that in tableservice restaurants the goal should be to keep Prime Cost at or below 65% of sales. QSR or non-tableservice operations should aim for a Prime Cost is 60% of sales or less.
When Prime Cost exceeds these percentages by more than a point or two, it usually becomes a real challenge for any restaurant to make a sufficient bottom line profit regardless of the other expenses on their P&L.
Some independent operators may not be getting an accurate reading of their Prime Cost because of the way owner's compensation is handled.
When calculating Prime Cost, the owner's compensation should be included in management payroll only if the owner is actively working in the restaurant and the amount of compensation does not exceed 4% of sales.
If you own a restaurant but have a GM manage the daily operations, don't include your compensation when calculating Prime Cost
For owners who perform the duties of a GM and/or chef, first see if your salary exceeds 4% of sales. If it does not, don't do anything. If it does, take the amount that exceeds 4% of sales out of Prime Cost.
Reason for the 4% amount is this. In general, GMs or chefs are not paid more than 3%-4% of sales. When a restaurant is very profitable, working owners may pay themselves more or even much more than 4% of sales so including all of their compensation in Prime Cost can cause it to be artificially high in comparison to other restaurants.
If applicable, reclassifying some portion of owner's compensation out of Management Payroll should give you a better number for comparing your Prime Cost to industry averages and rules of thumb.
Have a profitable week! Jim Laube & Joe Erickson