Data Intelligence

3 Reasons Why Restaurant Data is So Important

Any restaurant can get lucky, but only a great restaurant can consistently deliver an exceptional experience for their guests and customers. So how do you get to that point? Well, I can tell you that it’s not by making the changes that you think will work. It’s not by mixing the menu items that you don’t think your customers like. It’s not because of the new menu items that you think your guests love, when in reality they do not

The truth is, long term success for restaurants is possible when you tap into your restaurant data and make decisions from those findings. Maybe your personal least favorite menu item is your second best seller. Maybe the new dish you want to introduce is very similar to one that hasn’t been selling well for the past three months. Maybe the familiar face you see every Friday night isn’t the customer who comes in the most, but instead it’s the woman who comes in every Saturday afternoon when you’re not in the building.


Making decisions based on experience alone limits the growth potential of your restaurant. Instead of standing still (or worse, sinking) in your restaurant performance, take a look at these three types of restaurant data you should actively measure.


1) Restaurant Sales Data – What is it?

Restaurant sales data is your most important tool.

When you’re worried about how a menu item is performing, don’t go asking chefs and servers if it has been ordered a lot. Instead, check the sales reports from your point of sale to see how it sold today, this week, or this month.


This way, you can see for sure that the house chicken dish isn’t worth keeping on the menu anymore because sales have been dropping by 20% for the past 6 months. You can also see whether the weekly special you offer is worth putting on the menu permanently if it significantly outperforms the other specials you offer on a weekly basis.


Sales data isn’t just a useful tool for menu engineering. It’s quite helpful in forecasting for holidays and special events, days and weeks at a time, and even for seasons of the year. For example: How many steaks should you prepare to sell this Friday? Go back to the past few months and calculate the average number of steaks you sell each Friday, then make note of any particularly slow or busy nights that might not need to be considered. How much pizza dough and chicken wings should you get ready for the Super Bowl this year? Check your records from last year’s event and prepare accordingly.


Sales slumping this summer? Maybe it’s just an issue of restaurant seasonality – look up your numbers from last year and see if the drop in sales is similar to what you saw before. If they’re not comparable, maybe there’s a bigger problem you need to face in your restaurant like management, food quality, or a bad staff member whose behavior is damaging your reputation.


Better forecasting and menu planning is the key to crafting a more efficient kitchen and overall better experience for your guests, leading to more customers, more sales, more profit, and less waste.


How to Find it

Sales data can be found by recording each of your transactions. This is pretty tedious and time-consuming to compile and track when you’re using a pen and paper as your point of sale.


To understand the full power of restaurant data, consider switching to a modern point of sale system, which automatically tracks your sales in real-time via the cloud so you can see your sales reports from anywhere in the world.


2) Restaurant Inventory Data – What is it?

When food leaves your kitchen and it isn’t on a plate or in a to-go container, where is it going? The floor, the trash, or your employee’s mouths, maybe. This is understandable – not every ounce of food you order from suppliers will end up in front of a customer. Mistakes will be made and you can’t always control this. 


What you can control is how this is accounted for in your restaurant inventory tracking. Inventory data is crucial for inventory ordering, menu pricing, and employee management. Knowing your variance (the discrepancy between your used inventory and the inventory your sales reports say you used) helps you understand exactly how much of your kitchen’s food supply ends up on a plate. Planning for this variance in your menu prices makes a huge difference in profitability.


When you notice a particularly large variance one day, you may be able to attribute that to one employee who is preparing food with improper serving sizes or – even worse – stealing from your restaurant. In this case, tracking your inventory can help you save money in the long run by addressing an employee whose actions could be harming your business.


How to Find it

Inventory can be another tedious task without the right systems and processes. However, new software can help you keep track of inventory metrics. Tracking inventory metrics right from your POS system makes it simple to measure the difference between what you expect your inventory usage to be and what it actually is. 


Without integrated restaurant inventory software, you can use a pen and paper worksheet or a spreadsheet. However, this can get complicated if you have more than one person working on maintaining this information.


3) Customer Data- What is it?

Who really is your #1 customer? You can have favorites, sure, but don’t you want to know who’s paying the most towards your bills each month? 


On that same token, wouldn’t it be nice to have an ultimate database of customers to see spending patterns, contact information, and whether or not they’re a member of your loyalty program?


This is where customer data comes in. You can engage individual customers or all of your customers with specific messages and rewards. For example, if a customer hasn’t visited your restaurant in over a month, send them a discount code valid for this week only to bring them back.


The restaurant CRM (customer relationship management) system helps you find out who your most loyal customers truly are. With this information, you can launch a customer appreciation program and send rewards to the customers who visit your restaurant the most and those who spend the most each month.


How to Find it

Similar to the other two areas, collecting and tracking this data with absolute perfection is tough – maybe even impossible – when it’s done by hand. When integrated into your restaurant POS, the information collected from your customers can automatically create that customer database, which answers all of your questions about your guests and their spending patterns.


Restaurant Data in Your Business

Needless to say, the importance of restaurant data cannot be overstated. Helping you better understand your customers, your menu, your sales, your pricing model, and your inventory, restaurant data is a necessity for all restaurants that want to take their restaurant performance to the next level. 

AJ Beltis is a Blogger and Content Marketer for Toast Restaurant POS in Boston. Toast is an all-in-one restaurant point of sale system that integrates with customer loyalty, sales reporting, inventory tracking, online ordering, employee scheduling, and more. You can learn more about Toast POS here, and can follow AJ on Twitter @AJBeltis.

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