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Employees

food truck employees

Most food truck kitchens require more than a single set of hands to keep up with customer orders. Because of this it’s almost a necessity for most starting a food truck business to hire food truck employees before you hit the streets.

These steps will help you start the hiring process and ensure you are compliant with key federal and state regulations.

Food Truck Employees: How To Employ Your First
Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN)

Before hiring your first first employees, you need to get an employment identification number (EIN) from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. The EIN is often referred to as an Employer Tax ID or as Form SS-4. The EIN is necessary for reporting taxes and other documents to the IRS. In addition, the EIN is necessary when reporting information about your employees to state agencies. You can apply for an EIN online or contact the IRS directly.

Set up Records for Withholding Taxes

According to the IRS, you must keep records of employment taxes for at least four years. Keeping good records can also help you monitor the progress of your food truck business, prepare financial statements, identify sources of receipts, keep track of deductible expenses, prepare your tax returns, and support items reported on tax returns.

Below are three types of withholding taxes you need for your business:

Federal Income Tax Withholding
Every employee must provide an employer with a signed withholding exemption certificate (Form W-4) on or before the date of employment. The employer must then submit Form W-4 to the IRS.

Federal Wage and Tax Statement
Every year, food truck employers must report to the federal government wages paid and taxes withheld for each employee. This report is filed using Form W-2, wage and tax statement. You will need to complete a W-2 form for each employee who you pay a salary, wage or other compensation.

Employers must send Copy A of W-2 forms to the Social Security Administration by the last day of February to report wages and taxes of your employees for the previous calendar year. In addition, you should send copies of W-2 forms to your employees by Jan. 31 of the year following the reporting period.

State Taxes
Depending on the state where your employees are located, you may be required to withhold state income taxes.

Employee Eligibility Verification

Federal law requires employers to verify an employee’s eligibility to work in the United States. Within three days of hire, employers must complete Form I-9, employment eligibility verification, which requires employers to examine documents to confirm the employee’s citizenship or eligibility to work in the U.S. Employers can only request documentation specified on the I-9 form.

Employers do not need to submit the I-9 form with the federal government but are required to keep them on file for three years after the date of hire or one year after the date of the employee’s termination, whichever is later.

Employers can use information taken from the Form I-9 to electronically verify the employment eligibility of newly hired employees by registering with E-Verify.

Register with Your State’s New Hire Reporting Program

All employers are required to report newly hired and re-hired employees to a state directory within 20 days of their hire or rehire date. Visit the New Hires Reporting Requirements page to learn more and find links to your state’s New Hire Reporting System.

Obtain Workers’ Compensation Insurance

All businesses with employees are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance coverage through a commercial carrier, on a self-insured basis or through their state’s Workers’ Compensation Insurance program.

Post Required Notices

Employers are required to display certain posters in the workplace that inform employees of their rights and employer responsibilities under labor laws.

File Your Taxes

Generally, employers who pay wages subject to income tax withholding, Social Security and Medicare taxes must file IRS Form 941, Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return.

If you do not have an accounting background or do not feel confident in filing your food truck business taxes, be sure to reach out to an accountant for some assistance when hiring your first food truck employees.

If you have any steps we may have missed for hiring food truck employees, please feel free to add them in the comment section below, Tweet us or share them on our Facebook page.

employee performance reviews

As a food truck vendor you have to wear many hats. Being the boss is one of them. While wearing your boss hat, I’ll ask you this: Which is worse: receiving a performance review, or giving one to one of your food truck staff members? At least with the latter as the owner, you have some control.

When you’re the one conducting an employee performance reviews for one of your food truck employees, try doing these three things to make it a productive experience.

3 Simple Steps To Improve Employee Performance Reviews:
  • Set expectations early. Make employee-evaluation practices clear at the beginning of the year with individual performance planning sessions.
  • Set the right tone. Everyone hates the “feedback sandwich”: compliments, criticism, then more niceties. Deliver a positive message to your good performers by mainly concentrating on their strengths and achievements. Confront poor performers and demand improvement.
  • Avoid money talk. If possible, don’t mention compensation during the review; but if you must, take care of it at the start of the conversation.

Do you have any additional tips for food truck vendors to use when giving employee performance reviews? We’d love to hear how you handle them with your employees. You can share your thoughts in the comment section below, Tweet us or share them on our Facebook page.

food truck payroll

Running a food truck is a business model that usually requires more than one person. As a food truck owner, it will become quickly evident that you cannot run your mobile business on your own. Because of this, you will need to hire employees to assist you in your day to day food truck operation.

Unless you have come up with a way of hiring staff members without having to pay them, there are a few things that you are going to have to be aware of to legally hire these individuals. Many of these steps are required even if you are going to be a one person show, while others will become a requirement as soon as you plan to expand your staff from 1.

9 Steps To Setting Up Your Food Truck Payroll System

Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN)

Before hiring employees, you need to get an employment identification number (EIN) from the IRS. The EIN is often referred to as an Employer Tax ID or as Form SS-4. An Employer Identification Number (EIN) is a nine-digit number that IRS assigns in the following format: XX-XXXXXXX. The EIN is necessary for reporting taxes and other documents to the IRS. In addition, the EIN is necessary when reporting information about your employees to state agencies. You can apply for an EIN online or contact the IRS directly.

Check Whether You Need State/Local IDs. Some state/local governments require businesses to obtain ID numbers in order to process taxes.

Independent Contractor or Employee – Know the Difference

Be clear on the distinction between an independent contractor and an employee. In legal terms, the line between the two is not always clear and it affects how you withhold income taxes, withhold and pay Social Security and Medicare taxes, and pay unemployment taxes. As required by law, You will need to withhold payroll taxes from your employees checks, FICA (Social Security), SWH (State Withholding), FWH (Federal Withholding), SDI (State Disability Tax), Medicare, and FUTA (Unemployment Insurance Tax).

Take Care of Employee Paperwork

New employees must fill out Federal Income Tax Withholding Form W-4. Your employee must complete the form and return it to you so that you can withhold the correct federal income tax from their pay.

Set a Pay Period

You may already have a manual process for this, but setting up a pay-period (whether monthly or bi-monthly) is sometimes determined by state law with most favoring bi-monthly payments. The IRS also requires that you withhold income tax for that time period even if your employee does not work the full period.

Carefully Document Your Employee Compensation Terms

As you set up payroll for your food truck employees, you’ll also want to consider how you handle paid time off (not a legal requirement), how you track employee hours, if and how you pay overtime, and other business variables.

Don’t forget that other employee compensation and business deductibles such as health plan premiums and retirement contributions will also need to be deducted from employee paychecks and paid to the appropriate organizations.

Choosing a Payroll System

Payroll administration requires an acute attention to detail and accuracy, so it’s worth doing some research to understand your options. Start by asking fellow business owners which method they use and if they have any tips for setting up and administering payroll.

Typically, your options for managing payroll include in-house or outsourced options. However, regardless of the option you choose, you — as the employer — are responsible for reporting and paying of all payroll taxes.

Running Payroll

Once you have all your forms and information collated, you can start running payroll. Depending on which payroll system you choose, you’ll either enter it yourself or give the information to your accountant.

Record Keeping

Federal and some state laws require that employers keep certain records for specified periods of time. For example, W-4 forms (on which employees indicate their tax withholding status) must be kept on file for all active employees and for three years after an employee is terminated.  You also need to keep W-2s, copies of filed tax forms, and dates and amounts of all tax deposits.

Report Payroll Taxes

There are several payroll tax reports that you are required to submit to the appropriate authorities on either a quarterly or annual basis. If you are in any way confused about your obligations, take a look at the IRS’s Employer’s Tax Guide, which provides some very clear guidance on all federal tax filing requirements. Visit your state tax agency for specific tax filing requirements for employers.

There are many payroll companies you can hire to do your taxes and file your reports. You can have your accountant do this for you or you can buy payroll software and do it yourself.

Please note that its always best to consult with your lawyer and/or account to help you get set up and to make sure you are in compliance with all laws and regulations.

If you have any additional tips to setting up a food truck payroll system, please feel free to share them in the comment section below.

first food truck employee

If you have big ambitions for your mobile food business, eventually (perhaps even at start up) you’re going to have so much to do that you can’t do it all yourself. When that day comes, it’s time to hire your first  food truck employee.

3 tips to help you manage hiring your first food truck employee:

Knowledge First

You can’t just hire people, pay them with a wad of cash every two weeks and then lather, rinse, repeat. Start by learning everything you need to know about becoming an employer.

The Small Business Administration outlines the steps you need to take and everything you need to consider, like getting an employer identification number (EIN), tax withholding, wage and tax reporting, employee eligibility verification, workers’ compensation insurance, quarterly federal taxes and record keeping requirements.

There’s a lot to think about, but it’s manageable.

Now that you have the government’s blessing, it’s time to work on a hiring strategy.

Define Roles

When making your first official hires, it’s better to go with clearly defined roles.

That means taking stock of the tasks that you need a hand with and creating a position in support of those needs. Are you going to be working in the kitchen or working directly with your customers?

The answer to this question will help you to determine what type of skill set you are looking for in your first food truck employee(s).

Mind you, a little flexibility doesn’t hurt and helping employees spread their wings can help you nurture your food truck staff.

Food Truck Business Culture

Another important factor to consider before making your first hire is your food truck’s culture.

What values, traditions and practices do you want to shape your mobile food business? Once you’ve figured out what kind of workplace and culture you want, the better your chances of finding someone who shares that vision.

Once you’ve determined what defines your food truck as a workplace, look for hires that fit the bill. If your employees share your vision, they’re more likely to excel in their jobs and all stick around long enough to help you succeed.

BONUS: We now provide food truck employers and those looking for food truck jobs a great way to meet. Food Truck Jobs at Mobile Cuisine is the perfect solution for employers who want people who have specific food truck experience. Post your food truck job today!!!

If you are an old hat at hiring, what tips would share with vendors looking to hire their first food truck employee? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below, Tweet us or share them on our Facebook page.

pennies

We believe that food truck employees should know that they work in a low margin industry. Typically they won’t figure this out unless they’re told. Want to validate this point? Just ask a few of your employees how much money they think you make see how many say, “LOTS.”

This is because employees see, what many believe to be, large amounts of cash coming into the truck every day but most of them have no concept of what it costs to operate a mobile food business and how much profit remains after all the expenses are paid.

When employees assume the boss is getting rich, it can affect their attitude, behavior and what they might feel entitled to.

We recently spoke with a vendor who holds creative meetings with each employee to educate them on the low margin nature of the food truck business. He explained that he conducts these meetings when a staff member first starts. He gives them 100 pennies and explains that the pennies represent a dollar in sales and they will be shown out of every dollar of sales what it costs each month to operate the food truck.

The employee is asked to pay 30 pennies for food and beverage vendors, 35 for payroll, 10 cents for fuel and truck maintenance, 10 for commissary rent and so on. After all the expenses are paid, the remaining pennies represent the amount of profit the truck earned. Whether there are 3, 5 or even 10 pennies left, it’s a whole lot less than most employees assume.

What this lesson provides for each of his employees is a basic understanding why the little things like exact portioning, reducing waste and the hundreds of other seemingly meticulous steps he requires help to control costs and give him a shot at making a profit. This little example will show some of them that owning a food truck is not the money making machine they may have thought.

As a start-up food truck owner, you may want to pay yourself last to conserve money for your business, but sometimes putting yourself first is the trick to succeeding.

With so many expenses to pay for your mobile food business such as a truck payment, commissary rent, food inventory and staff wages; it can be hard to fit your own salary in. And as a food truck vendor, you may assume you should put everything you make back into the business. Not so. The first thing you should do with your money is pay yourself first.

pay-yourself-first

Many food truck owners who bootstrapped their companies feel that paying themselves is a luxury; however, we feel (and will show you why) that it is a necessity for the success of your business.

Why You Deserve a Salary

If you’ve got a nice cushion of savings, you may not need a salary right now to pay your bills. But that could change, so it’s best to prepare for the day when your funds run out. Getting into the habit of paying yourself, even just a little bit, will give you money for personal expenses when things get tight or sales slow down. If your food truck business happens to fail one day, you would have gotten something for your efforts by paying yourself and saving money for that rainy day.

Giving yourself a salary can have tax benefits for certain business structured, as it will reduce your company’s profit. Talk to an accountant to find out what benefits your tax type (LLC, partnership, corporation) has with your salary.

Other benefits to paying yourself include:

  • You can save money for future business efforts or for personal use
  • You may work harder to increase revenues and thus your income
  • Investors (if you have them) see you are committed to growing your company
Build in Your Salary

Plan your salary from the beginning. When you set up your budget and food truck business plan, include at least a small salary (weekly, bi-weekly or monthly) for yourself. If you’re going to be seeking financing, having your salary built in is key, as it will increase the amount you ask for from investors. In this case, determine how much you need to live, as well as what you’re worth.

If you’re bootstrapping, start by paying yourself a modest salary, even if it’s just a few hundred dollars a week. This can increase as your profits grow. You can also pay yourself through employee benefits such as health insurance or 401K investment.

When to Not Pay Yourself

There are a few instances when you can delay paying yourself:

  • You don’t have enough to pay for your food truck employees’ paychecks or pay bills to your suppliers, delay paying yourself until these expenses are covered.
  • You have significant up front expenses, you can delay your compensation until all expenses are covered with money brought in from food sales.

You’ve achieved something great by starting a food truck business. As a culinary entrepreneur, you’re willing to take risks to grow your mobile food business. You deserve to be paid, just like any of your employees. Invest in yourself just like you do your food truck.

Managing your food truck employees may be difficult, but it doesn’t hold a candle to managing their payroll. Executing payroll manually involves a slew of complex calculations, check cutting and tax withholding, which is a lot of extra work for a busy food truck owner. The price for mistakes can be steep, and it may lead to a stressful (and costly) visit from an auditor or a letter from an attorney.

food truck payroll options

This is why many mobile food vendors choose to outsource payroll. There are many options when it comes to managing payroll, including hiring an accountant and utilizing online or offline payroll services. Hiring an accountant might be ideal, but it also may not be in the budget for a small food truck start up.

This article breaks down some of top-ranked payroll service options (in no specific order) to consider for your food truck business, which will help you simplify your payment and tax-filing processes:

Intuit/QuickBooks ($39/month)

Starting at $25 a month, Inuit Online Payroll is an affordable and simple option for newcomers to the world of payroll. It can be integrated with the popular QuickBooks accounting software to support federal and state tax requirements for $39 a month. It’s generally considered one of the most accessible and straightforward payroll platforms for beginners, and it offers many helpful features, like Online Time Tracking for employees to record their hours. It provides employers with free mobile apps to manage payments. It also allows employees to check on their paycheck details online.

ADP ($160/month)

ADP is possibly the best-known brand name when it comes to payroll services, and it offers a full-service system that can also be integrated with QuickBooks. ADP RUN, their small business-focused payroll service, has more features than Intuit does but it’s also significantly pricier. Additionally, some users find it slightly more complicated to set up due to a greater diversity of options. Unlike Intuit, ADP RUN offers 24/7 customer service assistance as well as payroll mobile access for employees (rather than just employers). Due to the price, it’s often considered a better option for growing businesses that can afford its more extensive features.

ONPAY ($40/month)

ONPAY is another affordable full-service small business payroll service, which offers a lot of the perks of Intuit, like unlimited monthly payrolls, at a comparable price. It even has a few extra features, like employee compensation through Pay Cards, which are helpful for employees who may not have bank accounts. It can be integrated with QuickBooks, but lacks the ability to sync with other popular software, such as Quicken and QuickBooks Online.

Paychex ($88/month)

Another popular option, Paychex offers comprehensive online payroll services for small businesses. Like the previous two options, it can transfer payroll data into QuickBooks as well as other types of software, and it offers very comprehensive online payroll options. It does, however, charge an extra fee for certain services, such as direct deposit, and adds an extra charge per extra employee. It also lacks online employee access and a local check-printing feature offered by most other services.

SurePayroll ($80/month)

SurePayroll is a subsidiary of Paychex. It offers comprehensive web-based payroll options focused on small business. It has all of the bells and whistles offered by popular services like Intuit, but unlike most services, it does not charge an extra fee for adding extra states. It has the option of filing taxes for you and will work with the IRS on your company’s behalf. On the downside, it’s relatively pricey and may be a better fit for small- to medium-sized businesses rather than those with a handful of employees.

ProPayroll ($75/month)

ProPayroll is a comprehensive online payroll system with an impressive collection of features and pay options. It is known for its excellent customer service, but has more limited software integration capabilities and requires a few more additional fees compared to other payroll services.

MyPayrollHR ($75/month)

MyPayrollHR is another online option that offers integration with QuickBooks and Sage accounting software. It provides a good array of features and payment options. It offers several free features that many other services don’t, like not charging for the addition of extra employees, W-2 services or the inclusion of additional states. The only sticking point for smaller food truck operations may be the price, which still can’t compare to the affordability offered by Intuit and ONPAY.

Please Note: Prices are rounded approximations of the cost of the full-service payroll and tax-filing assistance for a business with five employees. They may vary based on number of employees or additional features. These features and qualities of these service options are subject to change.

If you use another payroll system we didn’t include, please feel free to share it in the comment section below or on Twitter @MobileCuisine.

 

tip of the dayWhen a food truck business is struggling and the morale of your employees is low, it falls on a food truck owner’s shoulders to help keep employees’ chins up and focus on the future. Use these tips to motivate food truck employees during troubling times:

  • Go to them. Sure your schedule is always packed but don’t invite employees to meet because it’s easiest for you. Visit them in the commissary or truck, especially if you aren’t there with them while they prepare the meals for your customers. This signals that what they do matters.
  • Praise their efforts. No one tires of hearing they’re doing a good job when the praise is genuine. Explain how their output is significant to your truck’s long-term health.
  • Watch their backs. Employees often suffer first when things get tough; show them that the owner supports them.

tip of the dayIf you spend any time reading management books, there are often many examples of styles suggested for use. Instead of managing everyone in your food truck business the same way, do these two things to manage your employees person-to-person:

  • Customize the position. Know what each employee’s strengths, weaknesses, and preferences are. If an employee doesn’t want to manage people, don’t make them do it. If they are a “people” person, don’t put them in charge of your service window.
  • Customize the rewards. Employees want different perks. A parent may want flex time while an ambitious, recent culinary school grad may be looking for additional training. Give people what they want, not what you or your managers have decided is best for them to have.

tip of the dayTraining a staff member who doesn’t want to be trained is frustrating at best and futile at worst. Don’t invest the time in someone who simply can’t be trained. Look for these three signs that someone is not trainable:

  • They have no problem. If they don’t want to change, he won’t be able to. Don’t waste your time trying to force him to see the error of his ways.
  • They’re in the wrong job. Ask them, “If the truck shut down today, would you be relieved, surprised, or sad?” If they say “relieved,” help them to figure out what’s next. There is no use in training someone who is truly unhappy about his job.
  • Everyone else is the problem. It’s impossible to help train someone who feels they don’t need the training. Move on — find someone who is ready to admit their problematic behaviors and accept your help.
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