Each piece of data is important to help build an overall smarter operation.

Restaurant Data 101: A Guide to Getting Started

When it comes to data, it pays to understand how to collect it and how to utilize it.

Owning a restaurant comes with plenty of responsibilities. From managing staff, schedules, and customer experience, you’re always burning the candle at both ends. You’ve heard about the importance of collecting restaurant data but you might feel like you don’t have the time to dig into it. Or, maybe you aren’t sure where to start.

We’ve made getting started with restaurant data easy for you. We’ll guide you through restaurant data for beginners to show you what you should be collecting, how to collect it, and how to utilize it.

1. Kitchen Data

We’ll start with the back of house. This data will refer specifically to your kitchen and food prep area and data you can collect from your kitchen display system. The KDS is where operators can gain a full scope of all kitchen activity to make business decisions on the fly.

Speed of Service Data

This includes total cook time per station, average cook times, and plating to table. Each time a cook bumps an item from one phase of its order to the next, it writes a report of when the order started, how long it took to cook, how long it should have taken, and how long it took to get the order from the kitchen out to the customer.

Cook Time Variance

Cook time variance report tracks how long an item is supposed to cook versus how long it actually cooked. Being able to track this information is important because it will allow you to adjust operational changes based on actual prep time and grill time taken into consideration. Honing in on accurate cook time variances for your menu items will improve the quality of your food because chefs will be able to pair every item in an order as soon as it comes off the grill, verses waiting for items that are taking longer to cook.

2. On and Off-Premises Dining

Off-premises dining is the most buzzworthy topic of the industry and it’s not going anywhere. When developing your off-premises dining strategy, you’ll want to keep in mind that you’re managing two streams of traffic (dine-in and off-premise). You’ll want to make sure one stream of traffic doesn’t negatively impact the other. Managing both streams is pretty much impossible without data and metrics.

Capacity Management

The first consideration you’ll want to make when launching an off-premise dining strategy is that in addition to the orders you'll be processing in-house, you'll also be taking in traffic from off-premise (online, mobile app, etc.). Capacity management data provides accurate quote times, one that accounts for the current speed of service in the restaurant and not only the volume of orders. The process of inflating times and staggering orders to follow with kitchen traffic is known as order throttling. This goes into effect when your kitchen meets max capacity. Orders in a slammed kitchen will be prioritized based on when they were placed—compared to paper tickets that will just simply print whatever is entered in the POS.

Real-Time Order Status

This is the quote time provided through order throttling. Diners and third-party delivery partners will receive an accurate quote time based on what’s actually going on in your kitchen.

3. Guest Management

This data concentrates specifically on your front of house. A majority of this information will be accessible when you integrate your front and back of house.

Wait Time

It’s possible to calculate wait times manually, but the process is time-consuming and leaves a lot of room for error. Long wait times are one of the leading ways to lose customers, so it’s best to choose a method you know will be reliable. A guest management system will automatically calculate wait times based on historical data, current table statuses, wait lists, and reservation book. This allows you to give your guests an accurate wait time and improve the overall guest experience.

Average Party Size

Party sizes vary so it’s important to have historical data of your average party size. You can use this data to determine trends of days you have larger parties so you know when you’ll need additional staff. This will be useful when creating marketing campaigns and will help you better serve your guests.

Party Sourcing Data

How did each diner discover your restaurant? This data is available on some guest management systems and can be helpful for building marketing campaigns.

Seating Efficiency

Seating efficiency is crucial to your bottom line and speed of service. How often are you seating a party at a table with more seating than needed? A guest management system with seating efficiency data will help ensure the appropriate size party is at the right table.

No Shows

Access information about who and why guests didn’t show up at the time of their reservation. You will then be able to draw conclusions that enable you to prep more effectively.

4. FOH and BOH Data

Back of house employees can also view front of house metrics from the kitchen.
When you unify this data, chefs can view what’s coming up and how many people are waiting, helping them prepare for larger parties and peak hours.

Takeout Tab

A guest management system that offers a takeout tab function will allow you to filter carryout and delivery on custom tabs. The takeout tab will show when the order starts in the kitchen, how long it’s been cooking, and the time the order will be ready. This allows your host to strictly greet guests instead of bouncing back and forth between the front of house and the kitchen.

5. Individual Customer Data

This is valuable information to use for customer retention and marketing initiatives.

How you collect this information is up to you. Most POS systems will allow you use the data while you’re using their system but you won’t “own” the information. Since this is information that you’d want to keep, you may want to hire a third party data collection company to gather the information for you. The type of data you should be able to collect is allergies, birthdays, anniversaries, favorite dishes, and order histories

6. Operations Data

Some of the most important data shows you what you have on hand. Choose technology that helps you manage staff schedules, inventory, and your budget.

Restaurant Inventory Management Software

Inventory management software will help track food inventory, suppliers, and prices so you know when it’s time to reorder products. You’ll be able to create reports on food costs, menu engineering, and inventory variances, helping you create a more profitable and efficient restaurant.

Restaurant Scheduling Software

A restaurant scheduling software helps improve restaurant efficiency and employee communication. You’ll be able to schedule your staff, control labor costs, communicate with staff members, stay compliant with labor standards, and review your overall performance from one software.


This should give you a good start to collecting and analyzing restaurant data. Each piece of data is important to help build an overall smarter operation. And, when your technology is integrated with one another, your opportunities will be endless.

Lee Leet is the founder and CEO of QSR Automations, a leader in restaurant technology. Since 1996, Leet has driven QSR Automations' strategy and growth, creating industry solutions and advancing the original company mission of restaurant innovation and empowerment. Under Leet’s leadership, QSR Automations has created ConnectSmart Kitchen, a kitchen automation solution, and DineTime, a guest management platform, to help restaurants efficiently manage their resources, time, staff, and the dining experience. Prior to his role at QSR Automations, Leet served in engineering consulting roles for KFC, successfully leading the team that converted the company’s back-of-house application.