A career as a restaurant controller places you in the position of serving as a professional guardian over the finances of the business. On a daily basis, you're responsible for the financial health and welfare of the restaurant, guarding against overspending and protecting economic resources. You may even discover you're something of a heroine when, under your guardianship, the restaurant flourishes as a result of your financial acumen.
Day In Day Out
Working with a restaurant’s finances can be challenging because the restaurant business continually fluctuates. It’s your job as controller to ensure there’s always enough money available to keep the business running. Your tools include financial statements, balance sheets and profit-and-loss statements -- all of which you create. Some of your responsibilities entail suggesting and making investments to plan for long-term goals and future restaurant growth. Additionally, you may supervise a staff of accountants or bookkeepers. You’ll be responsible for making sure the bills are paid on time, producing restaurant budgets and forecasts, and creating annual reports for management or other stakeholders.
Working as a restaurant controller doesn’t have to be dry; you can use your creativity to find ways of maximizing revenue using accounting principles. In doing so, you’ll analyze income and expense computations, and make sure all restaurant records are accurate. With the restaurant’s management team, you’ll monitor cost controls, including an ongoing review of everything from inventory and food costs, to the costs of printing menus and laundering linen. You’ll also oversee the production of payroll or, if it’s a small establishment, you might be the one to produce the payroll for employees.
You might be a perfect match for a job as a restaurant controller if you’re an analytical thinker, like math and working with numbers. You should have an understanding of the concepts of the hospitality industry, too, which are all about the customer. Skill at creating budgets is necessary, as is a fairly high level of computer experience. Although you’ll likely work in an office, the restaurant environment is usually fast-paced; people work as a team. You may be a team leader, so you should be comfortable with employment in that type of setting.
Restaurant controllers must have a solid background in accounting. Experience as a certified public accountant is an asset. To start, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in accounting or business administration, and it’s beneficial to augment your education with at least five -- and preferably ten -- years of accounting experience. Your prospects are even better if you’ve served as an accountant or finance manager for restaurants or other hospitality businesses, such as hotels. A master's degree in finance will give you an advantage over applicants who may not have one.
Compensation and Outlook
In general, restaurant controllers can earn a significant salary, depending on the size of the organization. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics combines all financial managers for reporting purposes, and doesn’t offer data specific to restaurant controllers. It’s probably safe to say, though, that employment for financial managers is becoming even more lucrative. For example, in 2010 the BLS reported that an average annual salary for financial managers was $103,910; by 2012, that salary had risen to $123,260. According to the BLS, employment for financial managers is expected to grow by 9 percent through 2020, slower than for other managerial occupations. Economic concerns may be behind fewer job openings, creating some healthy competition for women. However, women with the right combination of education and experience can place themselves at the head of the line of applicants seeking jobs as restaurant controllers.
2016 Salary Information for Financial Managers
Financial managers earned a median annual salary of $121,750 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, financial managers earned a 25th percentile salary of $87,530, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $168,790, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 580,400 people were employed in the U.S. as financial managers.
- Accounting Tools: Controller Job Description
- Chicago Tribune News: Passion for Food Fuels Restaurant Industry Jobs
- U.S. Department of Labor: Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Financial Managers
- U.S. Department of Labor: Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2012
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Financial Managers
- Career Trend: Financial Managers
Michelle Reynolds has been writing about business, careers and art since 1993. She was the publisher of a newsletter, “Working Parents Monthly," as well as a graphic design guidebook. Reynolds also served as human-resources director at a resort/spa for eight years. She is an artist and promotes the arts and other artists through ElegantArtisan.com, a website she developed and maintains.