Operators can improve restaurant profits by using and collecting the right data.
Picture this: It’s 7 p.m., and the dinner rush is in full swing, but despite meticulous planning you’ve run out of key ingredients, you’re down on staff, and your customers are growing more impatient by the minute. It’s a restaurant owner’s worst nightmare. Having spent years working in my family’s full-service restaurant, Kabab & Curry, I’m no stranger to the pain-points restaurant owners face on a daily basis, and in some cases, kitchen catastrophes. But my experience in the point of sale industry as founder of Ambur POS and now Director of Channel at ShopKeep has also taught me that there are many tools and technologies that can help mitigate these challenges. While restaurant owners must focus on the contents coming out of their kitchen, properly tracking and leveraging analytics reports is just as important to the business as the quality of the food being served.
POS systems make an immediate and noticeable impact with sales and inventory, but there are several surprising functionalities that are often overlooked when using analytics reports in full-service restaurants. From evaluating customer tip averages to analyzing the success of nightly specials, these functionalities can provide restaurant owners with valuable insights into their business and highlight trends that will not only help the business run smoother and avoid the situation described above, but ultimately boost profitability.
Track Those Tips
In full-service restaurants, the average tip per guest is generally a good indicator of how happy customers are. It’s easy to assume that the tip average points more to whether guests are either generous or stingy based on their tip amount, but when you can dive into the subtleties involved, it can tell you so much more than that. Using data and analytics to evaluate tips, restaurant owners can not only determine a customer’s overall dining experience, but also the performance of their staff.
When a server has low tip percentage per customer, the problem may have less to do with the food and more to do with the server himself. Was he helpful? Did he have a friendly demeanor and offer helpful suggestions? Was the food delivered in a timely manner? If the server is failing to do one or many of these duties, it could generate a lower tip and demonstrate a need for additional training, restructuring shifts, or staffing up. Conversely, a server with a consistently high tip average typically indicates a strong, favorable performance. This level of insight into staff behavior and employee habits is crucial for full-service restaurant owners who want to discern which servers are providing a positive customer experience, thereby creating long term value from repeat visits, and which are not.
Up the Upselling
When full-service restaurants regularly sell items that aren’t particularly lucrative, it’s necessary to offset the cost by upselling the products with higher profit margins. Servers can do this in any number of ways, whether it’s encouraging customers to try daily specials or suggesting meal add-ons like appetizers and desserts. While restaurant owners upsell items in order to generate maximum profit for their business, they can also use this tactic to establish deeper relationships with customers by delivering more value to the overall dining experience. This why full-service restaurants need to pay close attention to what their servers are selling, and using analytics reports is an easy, reliable way to do so.
Analytics give full-service restaurant owners a more detailed look into the daily food and beverage items their servers are promoting to customers. If a certain dish isn’t selling well or generates less revenue than other products, restaurant owners can use analytics to set standards, build expectations, and motivate their staff to push the threshold in that area. Reviewing these reports every six months helps full-service restaurants evaluate which items are popular in the long term and which are not, and enables them to make menu changes accordingly. It allows not only for better inventory management, but for smarter and more profitable inventory management. After all, if there are products that are failing to sell from even the best servers, they’re either lacking in quality or simply not resonating with customers.
Sales aside, analytics can also add another layer of information to daily staffing decisions. For instance, if a particular full-service restaurant consistently sits 30 tables an hour during its dinner shift, and each server can handle an average of five tables, the restaurant owner can use analytics and access this data instantly to easily determine he needs at least six servers on site for that shift. Similarly, analytics can help pinpoint the slower shifts, which helps with budgeting as fewer servers are needed during that timeframe.
Keeping track of these shifts allows restaurant owners to schedule the appropriate number of staff for each hour of operation, thus ensuring business runs smoothly and customers are satisfied. As restaurant owners know, competition is fierce and consumers increasingly require an excellent product and an excellent atmosphere to ensure a return visit. If the dining experience isn’t good—regardless of how the food tastes—guests are unlikely to return.
The restaurant business can be stressful, and its customers fickle. Properly leveraging analytics to better prepare the backend of a restaurant is essential to making sure that its public persona and final product is the best it can be. Having a future-proof restaurant POS systemthat streamlines daily operations and tracks information is a key first step, as the real differentiator in today’s market is leveraging the insights these analytics provide to take that extra step to boost profitability and make smarter business decisions. Whether it’s analyzing tip averages, upselling profitable inventory or optimizing staff schedules, these reports can play the behind-the-scenes role in taking a full-service restaurant from average to exceptional.