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5 Restaurant Sales Forecasting Best Practices Managers Need to be Doing

Sales forecasting is vital for successful restaurants. The best managers do it, and yours should, too!

Imagine if the next time you sat down to create a weekly or monthly employee schedule, a crystal ball appeared and showed you the exact number of employees you needed for each shift. That magical restaurant schedule optimizer could have a positive impact on your business, giving you the insight to create near-perfect employee schedules so that your restaurant is staffed to optimize labor budgets, employee productivity, and drive revenue.

Of course, there is no miraculous tool that can give you vision into the future. However, there is a solution that helps predict business demand and labor scheduling needs based on unit-level intelligence-it’s called restaurant sales forecasting and every manager should be doing it! It’s the science of using past events, such as your guest volume, to predict future volume and staffing needs.

Do You See Restaurant Sales Forecasting in Your Future?

Adding forecasting to your business planning is a powerful way for managers to make better, more informed decisions. Here are five sales forecasting best practices you might not currently be doing but definitely should be. Once you gain these future-focused insights, you may not actually become a powerful wizard, but you just might feel like one.

1. Know Your Restaurant’s Peaks and Valleys

Every part of the day has its own personality. There’s the morning rush, when people are swinging by on their way to work or school, the breakfast-to-lunch lull, the lunch rush, the post-lunch lull, the midday end-of-school day mad crush, and the dinner hustle. To hit your ideal labor budgets and employee productivity levels, each day should be staffed to match its actual business volume with effective labor scheduling. The right activity-level sales forecasting tool can give your restaurant operations and labor scheduling visibility down to time intervals as small as 15-minutes. You can’t ask for greater precision than that.

2. Base Your Forecasts on Appropriate Historical Data

In order to project for your future volume, you have to take stock of your past. Accurately forecasting your labor needs requires you to first base your projections on past weeks that are relevant. Let’s say you’re building a forecast for a regular week in late April. If you include the week of Easter – a week your restaurant was slammed for brunch and showed higher sales – in your historical data, your labor projections will likely be higher than what you need for a standard week.

“Adding forecasting to your business planning is a powerful way for managers to make better, more informed decisions.”

3. Make Adjustments!

Do you know that your restaurant will have a higher volume on a particular night? Maybe there’s a concert downtown and you’re well aware that the pre- and post-show crowds will make you busier than usual. Make an adjustment to reflect your need for more staff to work that shift. That way your employees aren’t blindsided and stretched too thin. Inaccurate sales forecasting can lead to over or understaffing, both of which can have lasting negative impacts on your revenue, your staff or your brand.

4. Forecast by Revenue Center to Understand How to Staff Appropriately

Do you do more drive-thru business on certain days than others? Does delivery account for a large portion of your sales? If so, forecasting by revenue center will help you staff those aspects of your business effectively. That way you aren’t short a delivery driver on a rainy night when nobody wants to leave their house.

5. Account for Weather in Your Forecasts

Rain, sleet, snow, or ice may not stop your neighborhood postman, but changes in the weather forecast can significantly impact a restaurant’s volumes. A rainy day, for example, can either mean fewer guests on the patio or a surge in to-go orders because people’s plans got rained out. A forecasting solution that tracks how weather has historically impacted your business gives you another layer of intelligent insight to optimize staff, inventory, and profits. And what if your solution could recommend percentage adjustments based on that historical weather data? Pretty rad right? Pop over to our blog showing our latest HotSchedules Forecasting updates!

Start Forecasting for Tomorrow, Today

Sales forecasting is vital for successful restaurants and the best restaurant managers consistently do it. It’s how you can accurately project your sales volumes, control your labor scheduling costs and make sure you have the right amount of people working at the exact times you need them.

The right sales forecasting solution can help control your labor spend and achieve employee scheduling efficiency. And, when integrated effectively into your regular business best practices, it can actually help your business drive revenue instead of simply save money.


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