How to Build a Taproom Financial Plan

There is a lot at stake when constructing a budget.

Over the years I (Kary) have created hundreds of financial budgets and I always get anxious when I start a new one. It’s a big job, and there’s a lot of work to be done. Plus, there’s a lot of pressure to get the plan done right. People rely on accurate numbers to make good business decisions that impact the brewery.

A financial plan can seem like an overwhelming task. So many numbers. So many unknowns. So many changes that occur unexpectedly and upset the whole business. How can you be expected to accurately predict everything that will happen and put everything on paper?

Short answer: You can not.

A famous man once said that plans were useless but planning was essential. This is true for creating your taproom financial plan.

The planning process — talking with your team and dreaming about the future of your dining room — is the fun part of creating your financial budget.

This is why I recommend first writing the plan in words. Don’t worry about the numbers at the start. Simply write down your goals, objectives and strategy in words. The numbers will come easily after that.

Basics of Reception Hall Planning

The dining room financial plan includes five basic elements:

  1. Sales forecasts
  2. Margin Plan
  3. Operating expenses plan
  4. Capital
  5. Debt schedule

Below, we’ll dig into each of the building blocks and give you some tips on how to get started. Use these ideas in conjunction with financial planning templates and you’ll be well on your way to creating a solid financial plan for your dining room.

Sales forecasts

The sales forecast is simply a projection of how much you will sell each month. It should show sales by category (project, package, food, etc.) and by month.

The Sales Forecast Model provides a starting point for this exercise.

To ask questions. Challenge assumptions. Build an achievable plan.

Margin Plan

Let’s start with some simple calculations:

  • Sales minus cost of goods sold = margin
  • margin divided by sales = margin percentage

Whenever possible, use an expected margin percentage to create your plan. This will make budgeting much easier. For example, if your consumption room’s historical margin trend is 75%, use that as an expectation for your new budget.

Generally speaking, the longer the history and the more consistent the margin percentage, the more confidence you can have in the accuracy of the number.

Use your Taproom sales plan template to project margins by sales category: draft beer, packaged beer, food, etc. The margins per category can be very different.

Look at the components of your beer cost – labor, materials, and overhead. Refer to your written financial plan for reminders of goals, plans, and strategy for the next year. If no major change, use the trend.

Operating Expense Plan

Operating expenses are the day-to-day costs of running your brewery: payroll, rental costs, insurance, etc. If the cost is not directly related to producing or packaging your beer, it is included in the operating expense section of your plan.

For large operating expenses, such as payroll, it helps to have a supporting schedule. This is a detailed list of what constitutes the expense. In the case of payroll, this schedule should list all employees, hourly rates, scheduled work hours, and salary information.

To establish the spending plan and make sure everything is accounted for, I find it very helpful to comb through the detailed transactions in the general ledger. The ledger lists all transactions that hit the financial statements. It’s basically like a check register that shows where the money was spent and a description of what was purchased. Where did we spend money? Will this happen again? Are we going to spend more or less? What new projects do we have next year? How much will it cost?

Chances are that if you bought something this year, you’ll buy it again next year. Use the general ledger to jog your memory of recurring expenses. Use historical amounts as a benchmark for budgeting next year’s expenses.

And don’t forget to invest in training your manager and staff. Here, I turn the call over to my co-pilot Andrew Coplon to talk about the importance of professional development for your employees.

Training is perhaps the most overlooked area of ​​investment in a brewery.

You hire a star bartender from another brewery and assume he knows everything he needs to know. Bad. Just because someone has worked in the craft beer industry before doesn’t mean they know your unique history and procedures.

Taking the time to successfully onboard a new team member (please don’t cringe at those corporate words) is valuable not just for that employee, but for your business as a whole. Much like Kary, I’m a big fan of the checklist when hiring a new team member, regardless of position. I recommend having 2 unique checklists for each role in your brewery.

The first checklist covers everything surrounding “corporate training”. This might include teaching this new employee about your company history, your mission statement, your beers, and introducing them to everyone else on your team.

The second checklist you should have in your back pocket is about “Operational Skills”. This will be unique for each position and will review the tasks employees must master to be successful in that role. For a bartender, this might include the basics, like just knowing how to turn the lights on and off or setting the outlet. Never assume someone knows the answer, but take the time to train them, even if the simplicity is fun for both of you.

Training should not be done on arrival. It should be a consistent tool used to educate your entire team. Invest in it from the start and provide your staff with additional opportunities to improve. The more they are invested in your mission, the more valuable they are.

Taking the time to properly train and maintain a team member will ultimately create a more efficient and profitable brewery.


So far, we’ve covered the sales plan, margin plan, and operating expenses. Next comes the time of the capital budget. This is the perfect place for big purchases. The big items go here: that new canning line, the keg washer, and the delivery van.

Anything that costs more than a set amount, say $1,000, and will last more than a year should be in the capital budget.

The difference between a capital expense and an operating expense is that capital items need to be amortized over a certain period of time. If you buy a box of paper for $50, that’s an expense on the current income statement. If you buy a system project for $10,000, it’s a capital outlay that will pay for itself over the next five to seven years.

Make your wish list. Determine how much the items will cost and when you plan to buy them. This will help you plan your cash flow needs.

Finally, match planned spending to planned funding. It is important to determine how you will pay for this new draft system. List any new loans or capital you will need to make the capital budget a reality.

Debt servicing

Debt service is the amount you pay each month on your loans. It’s like customer service, except with debt. The customer is always right, the bank too.

Create a schedule of all your debts and the payments due for each. Indicate the bank, the type of loan, the duration of the debt and of course the amounts of the payments.

Remember that only interest expenses appear on your income statement. The main part of your payment should be in your cash flow plan. The debt service schedule will serve as a reminder of how much is due and when.

Recap + action items

Here’s the bottom line: any financial plan is better than no plan at all. Start the process by writing your plan down in words. The main characters in the story are the sales forecast, margin plan, operating expense plan, capital budget, and debt service plan.

Take your budget story and translate it into numbers. Use the sales model as a starting point. A beautiful budget for your taproom is within your reach. Now open a beer and build a financial plan that will make us proud.

Before we get started, we’d love for YOU to join the Taproom Success membership. Use promo code 25YAMS at checkout to save 25% on any membership tier.

This piece comes from The Taproom Success team. A Taproom Success membership gives you the tools, resources, and support you need to run and grow your taproom business. From fundamentals to best practices, backed by actionable data and strategies, Taproom Success membership fills the void of taproom educational opportunities.