A Thoughtful Budgeting Process

Nov 21, 2021

By Daniel BendasManaging Partner


Many years ago, we worked with an iconic consultant, Mr. Joseph Baum, who created, among other things, Windows On The World in New York.  He taught us a budget preparation process that developed a thoughtful strategy of positive change and a road map for the upcoming year, in addition to putting numbers to paper. It helped us manage expectations, create accountabilities, and develop goals to meet our budgetary guidelines and needs.

There are three stages to the process, with an approval, ‘go-no go’ step in between to be sure everyone involved is on the same page, and there is ‘buy-in’ among all team members.

Assumptions & Criteria

Essentially, ask yourself, without restriction, if there is anything I can do to improve the operation, what would it be?  This exercise aims to allow for creative thinking about your business, thinking differently about your business, and brainstorming any ideas without limitation.  This process should take the form of:  “If I could to ‘X’ – the result would be ‘Y’.  For example:

Suppose I implement an impactful, engaging, organized online training platform. In that case, I will increase my sales by 5%, reduce turnover by 10%, or five employees per year, and overall controllables by .25% due to fewer office supplies, lost uniforms, etc. 

After creating a series of these assumptions, they go through an approval process, with a final list ready for the next phase. This process is the first step toward focused, goal-oriented budgeting for the new year.


Business Plan

The business plan maps the approved assumptions into a road map for pre-planning, implementation, and the date when the objective(s) will be met. Using the example above:


  • Develop a list of KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) needing to be satisfied to accomplish the stated goals.
  • Research eLearning training platform providers to determine capabilities, costs, and support – make a selection.


  • Prepare all needed systems, processes, and procedures needed to get ready for team training.
  • Develop all needed training materials and get ready to load onto the eLearning training platform.
  • Develop a ‘roll-out’ strategy/calendar.
  • Identify costs associated with this phase of the plan.
  • Create a timeline that reflects when stated results will be achieved after implementation and ‘shakedown’ of the program.


  • Organize training sessions for all team members (management, staff, etc.), per the roll-out strategy.
  • Begin roll-out of the plan, with checkpoints to monitor progress, make adjustments and ensure the effectiveness of the training.
  • Continue to follow up to ensure that the plan is in place and working, with the stated improvement objectives being realized.


Restaurant Budget Creation


Once the business plan has been completed for each assumption, the plan will be reviewed and approved.  This plan, along with any other budgeting tools (previous history, upcoming events, changes to the trade area, new competition, capital expense requests, etc.), now becomes the basis for putting numbers to paper to finalize a budget.

budgeting for restaurant

Following the approved timeline established in the Business Plan, this process now provides an action and accountability structure for the entire year, keeping the team focused, engaged and attentive to milestones and improvements in all business areas. We have also found that by using this process, there is an excitement generated by a sense of purpose, goal completion, and the rewarding feeling of success!