3 Critical Tips for Restaurant Owners on SBA's PPP Plan

Posted by Robin Gagnon on Apr 13, 2020 2:59:01 PM


We Sell Restaurants has worked hard to keep you up to date on programs available for you under the CARES Act.  If you heeded that advice and filed for assistance through the Paycheck Protection Act there is good news on the horizon.  Funds are flowing.  We spoke to restaurant owners that are seeing money hitting their accounts this week who applied as recently as April 3.  This demonstrates the commitment of lenders and the Small Business Administration to aid the restaurant industry.

Once you receive the funds, remember the criteria under which it is forgiven versus rolling into a loan that must be repaid.  The loan will be fully forgiven if the funds are used for payroll costs, interest on mortgages, rent, and utilities.  However, due to likely high subscription (the SBA’s language, not ours), at least 75% of the forgiven amount must be used for payroll.  Forgiveness is based on the employer maintaining or quickly rehiring employees and maintaining salary levels.  Forgiveness will be reduced if full-time headcount declines, or if salaries and wages decrease.

In order to qualify for loan forgiveness here are three important tips.

Tip 1:  Understand the definition of Payroll 

Payroll includes the salaries and wages paid to anyone on your team as well as income subject to normal withholding (W2 income) to yourself.  This is capped at $100,000 so no one employee can get more than $8333.33 per month and qualify for forgiveness.

The definition of payroll under this program includes benefits for employees.  Pension plans, profit sharing retirement plans and 401k programs are all included to the extent that the employer or restaurant owner contributes funds to these.  It would NOT include the employee’s contribution.

In addition, all health insurance paid by the employer is included in the program.  Your lender will want to see your health insurance payments. 

Tip 2:  Use it to hire and re-staff quickly

The push to get this funding out is based on the critical need to get Americans back to work.  Don’t put the money in the bank and sit on it.  The clock begins ticking as soon as funds are in your hands and they want to see it deployed within 8 weeks.  Re-staff, re-hire and restore pay levels as quickly as possible. 

When there is an eventual accounting of these funds, they will look at the eight-week period after they are received to understand how they were deployed. Remember, forgiveness is based on the employer maintaining or quickly rehiring employees and maintaining salary levels.  Forgiveness will be reduced if full-time headcount declines, or if salaries and wages decrease.

Tip 3:  Set up a separate Bank Account (Most Important Tip)

This the most important tip from We Sell Restaurants.  You need to set up a new and separate bank account for these funds.  If they arrive by funds transfer into your regular account, transfer out the exact amount into a new account immediately.  This is critical to making sure the accounting for these funds is clean.

Then use the new bank account only for the purposes of the exact items covered by the Payroll Protection Act.   This may seem like extra work but trust us when we tell you that this is MUCH LESS work than figuring out which expenses qualify, and which ones don’t when you are required to account for them on the back end.

As soon as the new account is set up then you need to:

  • Immediately substitute the new account with your payroll vendor so all checks are cut from this account.
    • Do not have payroll taxes drafted from this account as they do not qualify, only payroll qualifies.
  • Stop any auto draft or auto pay out of your old account for utilities including, water, electric, gas, Internet Service or Telephone.
  • Make sure your rent check is paid from this account.

  • Split your mortgage payment (if you have one) between principle and interest. Pay interest from your new PPP account and principle from your regular account.

Then monitor the outflow and stay consistent that 75% of the funds are going for payroll.  If it looks like it’s moving below that number, you may face a payback scenario which converts to a loan with a maturity of 2 years and an interest rate of 1%. 

Follow these three tips however, and you should be able to adequately manage the funds received from the Paycheck Protection Act to assist you and avoid any requirement for repayment. 

If you received both the Paycheck Protection Plan funds and the emergency $10,000 from the Economic Injury Disaster Advance Loan, we recommend you open two bank accounts and keep the funds separate as well.  You can use both types of relief, but you must demonstrate they were for separate uses.  A separate bank account easily allows you to demonstrate separate uses of funds. 

We Sell Restaurants will continue to keep restaurant owners up to date on the CARES Act and any information we have to assist you through the shutdown and our eventual recovery at this link to all things restaurant and COVID19 related.

Robin slug photoRobin Gagnon, Certified Restaurant Broker®, MBA, CBI, CFE is the co-founder of We Sell Restaurants and industry expert in restaurant sales and valuation. Named by Nation’s Restaurant News as one of the “Most Influential Suppliers and Vendors” to the restaurant industry, her articles and expertise appear nationwide in QSR Magazine, Franchising World, Forbes, Yahoo Finance, and BizBuySell. She is the co-author of Appetite for Acquisition, an award-winning book on buying restaurants.



Topics: Support for Restaurants - COVID19 Advice

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