What you need to know about restaurant analytics

Restaurant analytics

Making strategic decisions about a restaurant can be a complicated task. But data tells the real story behind the scenes. Understanding the inner workings of a restaurant through real-time analytics can be the key to improving a restaurant business. Whether analyzing numbers is all new to you or you’re a seasoned pro, optimizing restaurant data can boost revenue, improve customer satisfaction, and get more butts in seats.

Here’s what every restaurateur needs to know about restaurant analytics:

What are restaurant analytics?

When breaking down what data you should be looking at, it’s best to start by understanding the difference between restaurant reporting and restaurant analytics.

Reporting focuses on a chunk of restaurant data, usually within a short and specific period of time. For example, it can be used to compare sales and profits from this month and last. It’s great information to have, but is most valuable when observed through a specific lens, such as a precise time period or restaurant location.

Analytics, on the other hand, look at the big picture by asking questions about the data and interpreting it. Rather than providing just one data point, they combine multiple sets of raw data to create cohesive insights for every aspect of a restaurant. Instead of looking at just sales and profits, analytics allows you to dig deeper into a specific day or even hour to decipher the restaurants’ most profitable times.

Using and understanding your analytics

Keeping those definitions in mind, consider how analytics can benefit restaurant growth. With current technologies, analytics can assist in gathering, measuring, and organizing every piece of information within a restaurant—from guest information and staff performance to food waste and labor costs.

1. Minimize food waste
In an industry that spends an estimated $164 billion annually in costs related to wasted food, according to a report from ReFED, reducing this spend is always top of mind. Combining a predictive analytics solution and the restaurants’ online ordering system system can improve order accuracy and reduce overall waste. By forecasting which menu items will be in demand during specific hours of the day, analytics allow you to adjust the restaurants’ inventory and future orders accordingly, reducing waste and saving you money.

2. Improve the guest experience
Enhancing your guest experience can be as simple as gathering diner data. A restaurant reservation system can help compile personalize details including, birthdays, allergies, and many other preferences. In tandem, a POS (point of sale) system can pull in guest information, including popular dishes and ticket size per customer. Many reservation platforms are compatible with select POS systems and can be a great way to keep all of your data in one place.

By looking at this information holistically, a restaurant can review demographics, reservation habits, and other ordering preferences, and use this information to turn one time guests into repeat business. Consider sending a complimentary allergy-friendly dessert on a birthday or special occasion while simultaneously assessing comp costs to ensure the costs don’t outweigh the benefits long term. If analytics are showing high no-show rates, think about adding in a reservation deposit. Or if you’re looking to pull in more guest data, try pairing a loyalty program with restaurant analytics to see what guests value most.

3. Optimize staffing needs
Get a jump on shift planning by using analytics to plan the weeks ahead. Looking at a restaurants’ busiest days and order volume over time can be a great predictor for staff scheduling. Using insights to define a restaurants’ rush can demonstrate how much a restaurant should be spending on labor during that peak—allowing you to cut back on labor costs while reducing the risk of being understaffed. Consider examining your seasonal trends as well and schedule a mix of part-time, full-time, and temporary hires year round to meet demand.

Understanding your staff at a high level can lead to lower employee turnover. Restaurant analytics can track employee performance, providing you the opportunity to check in with staff to ensure high performance and job satisfaction. If one server is performing exceptionally well, consider having them mentor a fellow employee. They’re a great resource for any VIPs that come to dine.

Take the time to look into any areas that could be streamlined. If there’s an area of the floor where staff is repeatedly held up, consider reworking the layout. Listening to employees is a great way to improve morale, but using analytics to keep things efficient can also build a healthy environment.

4. Forecast trends for future success
The future may not be set in stone, but analytics can help you picture where it might end up. Predictive analytics can compare historical performance with a restaurants’ current numbers to paint a picture of where you’ll be at in a few years. Understanding potential revenue can allow you to strategize new goals and expectations while optimizing current tactics.

Take menu insights, for example. Without analytics, you might assume that a restaurants’ best selling item is the most profitable. It might be this year, but the rising cost of an ingredient over time could change that. Examining trends within your menu can additionally improve profitability of certain items. If one dish is pushing guests to return, train servers to promote it or highlight it on the menu.

Once you understand how analytics can streamline restaurant operations, the next step is to figure out what system is right for you. The great news is that many POS systems come equipped with analytics tools. When picking a system—or maximizing one that is currently in place—there are a few things to consider. Opt for a mobile system for maximum accessibility, confirm that it’s reputable and secure, and ensure that it’s able to gather all the data you’re looking for.

Understanding a restaurants’ analytics doesn’t have to be a headache. In fact, properly implemented strategies should help the restaurant run more efficiently, improve overall staff happiness, and create stronger relationships with guests. Decide which methods are right for your restaurant, but feel confident in trying out new techniques—the analytics will confirm what works and how to find the perfect solution for success.