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Ten Essential Restaurant KPIs: What to Track for Success

Find out what restaurant KPIs you should be tracking to increase your sales, reduce your costs, and boost operational efficiency.

5 mins readNovember 20, 2023

In the fiercely competitive restaurant industry, achieving success demands more than just culinary expertise and excellent service; astute financial management is equally vital. Many restaurant owners overlook this aspect, risking even the most popular venues to financial pitfalls.

Essential to navigating these challenges are key performance indicators (KPIs) and ratios, which offer a clear, objective analysis of business performance and areas needing enhancement.

From tracking daily covers and table turnover rates to managing food costs and staff productivity, this guide equips restaurateurs with crucial data-driven insights. Understanding and optimizing these KPIs is key to attracting new customers, delighting regulars, and ensuring the prosperous management of your restaurant business.

What are Restaurant KPIs and Why Should I Track Them?

In the context of restaurants, the top 10 KPIs you should be tracking are:


KPIWhat It MeasuresWhy It's Important to TrackHow to Measure and Track It
Cost of Goods Sold (COGS)Total cost of food and beverage ingredients used in meal preparation and sales.Crucial for setting appropriate menu prices and maintaining profit margins.COGS = (Opening Inventory + Purchases) – Closing Inventory
Gross ProfitTotal revenue minus all food costs.Provides a basic understanding of profitability before other expenses.Gross Profit = Total Revenue - COGS
Net ProfitTotal income after all expenses are deducted, including COGS and operating costs.Indicates actual profitability and financial health of the restaurant.Net Profit = Gross Profit - (Operating Expenses + Taxes + Interest)
Per-Person SpendAverage amount spent by each customer.Reflects on pricing strategies and customer spending habits.Per-Person Spend = Total Revenue / Number of Customers
Average Table Occupancy RateFrequency of table occupancy and turnover.Shows efficiency and potential for maximizing revenue.Average Occupancy = Occupied Tables / Total Tables
Guests Served Per HourNumber of guests served each hour.Indicates service efficiency, particularly in high-turnover settings.Guests Served Per Hour = Total Guests Served / Duration (in hours)
Prime CostsCombined total of food and labor costs.Assesses operational efficiency and profitability.Prime Cost = Food Cost + Labor Cost
Order Error RateFrequency of mistakes in order-taking and fulfillment.Crucial for customer satisfaction and operational efficiency.Order Error Rate = (Number of Incorrect Orders / Total Number of Orders) x 100
Labor CostsExpenses associated with employing staff.Impacts profitability and operational efficiency.Labor Cost Percentage = (Total Labor Cost / Total Revenue) x 100
Staff Turnover RateRate at which employees leave and are replaced.Affects operational consistency, cost efficiency, and customer experience.Staff Turnover Rate = (Number of Employees Leaving / Average Number of Employees) x 100

1. Cost of Goods Sold (COGS)

What is it?


"Cost of Goods Sold" (COGS) is an essential Key Performance Indicator (KPI) in the restaurant industry. It represents the total cost of food and beverage ingredients used in meal preparation and sales. Calculating COGS is straightforward and is a fundamental aspect of understanding a restaurant's financial health.


Why is it important?


Aspect of COGSImportanceApplication in Restaurant Management
Profitability AnalysisDirectly impacts the profitability of a restaurant.Understanding COGS helps in setting appropriate menu prices and maintaining profit margins.
Inventory ManagementIndicates the efficiency of inventory use and procurement.Monitoring COGS assists in optimizing stock levels and reducing waste.
Financial HealthA key indicator of overall financial performance.Regularly assessing COGS provides insights into cost control and operational efficiency.
BenchmarkingEnables comparison with industry standards.Comparing COGS with industry benchmarks helps in identifying areas for improvement.

How is it calculated?


COGS = (Opening Inventory + Purchases) – Closing Inventory

Worked Example: Restaurant X

  • Opening Inventory: $200 at the beginning of the week.
  • Purchases: $300 during the week (e.g., steaks).
  • Closing Inventory: $350 left unsold at the week's end.

Thus, COGS for Restaurant X is calculated as:

(200+300) − 350 = $150

To calculate COGS as a percentage of sales:

COGS Percentage = (COGS / Total Sales) * 100

COGS Percentage = (150 / 600) * 100 = 25%


Good to know:


Assessing your COGS is crucial as it varies based on factors like cuisine type, location, and business model. Here's a guide to understanding COGS effectiveness:


COGS RatingCOGS Percentage
ExcellentBelow 25%
Good25% - 30%
Average30% - 35%
BadAbove 35%

Regularly comparing your COGS with these benchmarks and adjusting your pricing and inventory management can significantly optimize this KPI for your restaurant.

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2. Gross Profit

What is it?


Gross profit in the context of a restaurant is the total revenue minus all food costs. This figure is crucial for understanding the basic profitability of a restaurant before other expenses are considered. It reflects the efficiency of both menu pricing and cost control in food procurement.


Why is it important?


Aspect of Gross ProfitImportanceApplication in Restaurant Management
Profitability AssessmentGives a clear picture of the basic profitability of the restaurant.Helps in evaluating how well the restaurant is generating revenue from its sales relative to the cost of goods sold.
Menu Pricing StrategyIndicates the effectiveness of menu pricing.Ensures that menu prices are appropriately set to cover food costs while generating profit.
Cost ControlReflects the efficiency of controlling food costs.Assists in identifying areas where cost savings can be made, such as negotiating better prices with suppliers or reducing waste.
Financial Decision MakingProvides a foundation for broader financial decisions.Forms the basis for budgeting, forecasting, and making strategic business decisions.

How is it calculated?


Gross Profit = Total Revenue − COGS

Worked Example: Restaurant X

  • Total Revenue: $50,000
  • COGS: $20,000

Gross Profit for Restaurant X is calculated as:

$50,000 − $20,000 = $30,000


Good to know:


  • Gross profit is a fundamental financial metric for any restaurant, offering an initial glimpse into the business's financial health.

  • It's important to remember that gross profit does not account for other operating expenses like labor, rent, utilities, and marketing.

  • For a comprehensive understanding of profitability, restaurant owners should also consider these expenses.

  • Regularly monitoring and optimizing gross profit can lead to more informed decisions about menu pricing, cost control, and overall business strategy.
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3. Net Profit

What is it?


Net profit is the total income a restaurant earns after all expenses are deducted. This includes not just the cost of goods sold (COGS) but also all other operating costs such as utilities, rent, repairs, insurance, staff wages, taxes, and interest. It's a comprehensive measure of a restaurant's financial performance, indicating the actual profitability after all operational costs are covered.


Why is it important?


Aspect of Net ProfitImportanceApplication in Restaurant Management
Overall ProfitabilityReflects the actual profit margins after all costs.Essential for understanding the overall financial health and sustainability of the restaurant.
Expense ManagementHighlights the impact of operating expenses on profitability.Assists in identifying areas where cost reductions can improve profit margins.
Strategic Decision-MakingProvides a basis for informed business decisions.Guides strategic planning, investment decisions, and resource allocation.
Investor and Lender AppealImportant for attracting investment and securing loans.Higher net profits can make the restaurant more attractive to investors and lenders.

How is it calculated?

Net Profit = Gross Profit − (Operating Expenses + Taxes + Interest)

Worked Example: Restaurant X

  • Gross Profit: $30,000
  • Operating Expenses: $15,000
  • Taxes: $5,000
  • Interest: $2,000

Net Profit for Restaurant X is calculated as:

$30,000 − ($15,000 + $5,000 + $2,000) = $8,000


Good to know:


  • Net profit is essential for restaurant owners to regularly analyze and understand each component contributing to net profit.

  • While boosting sales and gross profit is important, effective management of operating expenses and other costs is equally crucial for enhancing net profit.

  • Regular financial reviews and strategic adjustments based on net profit metrics can lead to more sustainable business growth and success.

4. Per-Person Spend

What is it?


Per-Person Spend, or Average Spend per Customer, is a crucial metric for restaurant owners. It indicates the average amount of money each customer spends during their visit. This figure reflects not just the appeal of the menu items but also their pricing strategy.


Why is it important?


Aspect of Per-Person SpendImportanceApplication in Restaurant Management
Revenue IndicationDirectly reflects the restaurant's revenue-generating capacity.Helps in assessing the effectiveness of pricing strategies and menu appeal.
Customer Spending HabitsProvides insights into how much customers are willing to spend.Assists in tailoring menu options and promotions to customer preferences.
Menu OptimizationIndicates which items are more popular or profitable.Guides decisions on which dishes to promote or revise for better profitability.
Strategic MarketingHelps in targeting the right customer segments.Enables targeted marketing strategies to attract customers likely to spend more.

How is it calculated?


Per-Person Spend = Total Revenue / Number of Customers


Worked Example: Restaurant X


  • Total Revenue: $2,000
  • Number of Customers: 100

Per-Person Spend for Restaurant X is:

$2,000 / 100 = $20

This means, on average, each customer at Restaurant X spends $20 per visit.


Good to know:


In the US, dining out spending habits vary significantly. A recent survey found the following per-person spending ranges:

Per-Person Spend RangePercentage of Americans
$10 or less8%
$11 - 2042%
$21 - 3024%
$31 - 4011%
$41 - 507%
$50 or more8%
Source: The Diner Dispatch: 2023 American Dining Habits
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5. Average Table Occupancy Rate

What is it?


Average Table Occupancy Rate is a measure used by restaurant owners to understand how many of their tables are being used at a given time. It's a simple yet effective way to gauge the popularity and efficiency of a restaurant.


Why is it important?


Aspect of Table OccupancyImportanceApplication in Restaurant Management
Demand AnalysisIt helps identify peak dining hours and quieter periods, enabling restaurant owners to optimize staffing and resource allocation.Knowing when the restaurant is busiest or slowest can guide decisions on staff scheduling, thus controlling labor costs and improving service during busy times.
Space UtilizationUnderstanding table occupancy rates aids in assessing how effectively the restaurant's space is being used.This can lead to strategic decisions about restaurant layout, possibly increasing the number of tables or reconfiguring the space for better customer flow and experience.
Revenue MaximizationHigh table occupancy rates generally indicate higher revenue potential.By monitoring this KPI, owners can implement strategies to increase occupancy during slow periods through promotions, special events, or targeted marketing.
Customer ExperienceConsistent monitoring of table occupancy can also signal the quality of the dining experience.Overcrowding might suggest a need to manage reservations more effectively, while low occupancy might indicate issues with location, menu appeal, or overall customer satisfaction.

How is it calculated?


Average Occupancy = Occupied Tables / Total Tables


Worked Example: Restaurant X


Let's consider 'Restaurant X', which has a total of 50 tables. During a busy lunch hour, 10 of these tables are occupied.

Using our formula, the average occupancy rate for Restaurant X during this hour would be:

Average Occupancy = 50 / 10 = 0.2 or 20%

This means 20% of Restaurant X's tables are occupied at this time.


Good to know:


Below are the average table occupancy rates in US restaurants. Keep in mind that these rates may vary based on restaurant size, layout, location, and specific business strategies, among other factors:


Type of RestaurantAverage Table OccupancyComment
Fast Food or Quick Service Restaurants (QSR)40% - 60%Fast-food establishments typically have a higher turnover rate, and customers often take their orders to go.
Casual Dining Restaurants60% - 75%Casual dining restaurants aim for a balance between turnover and providing a comfortable dining experience.
Fine Dining Restaurants75 - 90%Fine dining establishments often focus on a more intimate dining experience with fewer tables and longer customer stays.

6. Guests Served Per Hour

What is it?


The 'Guests Served Per Hour' metric indicates the number of guests a restaurant serves each hour. This KPI is especially crucial for quick-service restaurants (QSR), where rapid service is a key factor. For traditional sit-down restaurants, while it may not be as critical, it still offers insights into potential service bottlenecks.


Why is it important?


Aspect of Guests Served Per HourImportanceApplication in Restaurant Management
Operational EfficiencyIndicates the efficiency and speed of service.Helps in identifying and addressing service slowdowns or staffing issues.
Service QualityReflects on the overall service experience.Useful for pinpointing issues like poor communication or the need for staff training.
Capacity PlanningAssists in understanding the restaurant's handling capacity.Guides decisions on staff scheduling and table arrangement for optimal service.
Business ExpansionRelevant for expansion into delivery or telephone orders.Helps in scaling operations efficiently for online and telephonic orders.

How is it calculated?


Average Guests Served Per Hour = Total Guests Served / Duration (in hours)


Worked Example: Restaurant X


  • Total Guests Served: 200 during lunch service
  • Duration: 2 hours

Average Guests Served Per Hour for Restaurant X:

200 / 2 = 100 guests per hour


Good to know:


The average number of guests served per hour can vary significantly based on the restaurant type, staff size, service efficiency, and time of day. Here are some general estimates:


Type of RestaurantAverage Guests Served Per HourComment
Fast Food or Quick Service Restaurants (QSR)50 - 100Typically high turnover rate and focus on quick service.
Casual Dining Restaurants20 - 40Balance between turnover and a comfortable dining experience.
Fine Dining Restaurants10 - 20Focus on a more intimate dining experience with longer customer stays.

These benchmarks can help restaurant owners evaluate their service efficiency and make necessary adjustments to improve guest throughput and overall service quality.

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7. Prime Costs

What is it?


In the restaurant industry, prime cost refers to the combined total of food cost and labor cost. Food cost includes expenses on ingredients, while labor cost encompasses wages and related expenses for staff. Prime cost is a critical metric for assessing the operational efficiency and profitability of a restaurant.


Why is it important?


Aspect of Prime CostImportanceApplication in Restaurant Management
Operational EfficiencyReflects on the efficiency of restaurant operations.Facilitates analysis of labor deployment and food cost management, guiding more efficient practices.
Profitability InsightIndicates how much of the revenue is consumed by direct operational costs.Helps in determining the profitability and sustainability of the restaurant.
Cost ManagementHighlights areas of potential cost savings.Assists in identifying where to cut costs without compromising quality or service.
Strategic Decision-MakingProvides a basis for financial planning and strategy.Guides decisions on menu pricing, staff scheduling, and other operational aspects.

How is it calculated?


Prime Cost = Food Cost + Labor Cost


Worked Example: Restaurant X


  • Total Sales: $1,500 in a day
  • Labor Cost: $900 in staff wages
  • Food Cost: $1,000 in fresh food ingredients

Prime Cost for Restaurant X:

$900(Labor Cost) + $1,000(Food Cost) = $1,900


Good to know:


  • The prime cost typically accounts for about 60% to 65% of total sales in restaurants.

  • A prime cost exceeding total sales, as in the example of Restaurant X, indicates an unsustainable situation, either due to a quiet shift or more systemic issues.

  • Regularly monitoring and analyzing prime costs against total sales is vital for managing restaurant finances effectively.

  • It can reveal insights into the cost-effectiveness of the business and highlight areas for potential expenditure reduction.

Check out our Guide to Understanding Prime Cost Analysis

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8. Order Error Rate

What is it?

Order error rate in a restaurant refers to the frequency of mistakes made during the order-taking and fulfillment process. This includes incorrect items being recorded or served, miscommunication about customer preferences, and errors in entering orders into the POS system.

Why is it important?


Aspect of Order ErrorImportanceApplication in Restaurant Management
Customer SatisfactionDirectly impacts the dining experience and customer satisfaction.Minimizing order errors is crucial for maintaining a positive reputation and customer loyalty.
Operational EfficiencyErrors lead to waste and additional work, affecting overall efficiency.Reducing errors streamlines operations, saving time and resources.
Financial ImplicationsMistakes can lead to product waste and loss of revenue.Lower error rates help in controlling costs and protecting profit margins.
Staff PerformanceHigh error rates may indicate training needs or systemic issues.Identifying and addressing the root causes of errors can improve staff performance and morale.

How is it calculated?


Order Error Rate = (Number of Incorrect Orders / Total Number of Orders) * 100


Worked Example: Restaurant X

  • Total Orders: 500
  • Incorrect Orders: 15

Order Error Rate for Restaurant X:

(15/500) * 100 = 3%


Good to know:


  • A high order error rate not only diminishes customer satisfaction but also indicates inefficiencies leading to product waste and time spent on rectifying mistakes.

  • The best approach to addressing a high order error rate is through patient and consistent training for staff. This should include: training in effective communication, Aaccurate order-taking, and proper use of technology.

  • Regular assessments and feedback systems can also help in continuously monitoring and reducing error rates, thereby enhancing the overall quality of service and customer experience in the restaurant.
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9. Labor Costs

What are Labor Costs?


Labor costs in restaurants encompass all expenses associated with employing staff, including wages, overtime pay, benefits, and employer contributions to taxes and insurance. This KPI is critical for evaluating a restaurant's profitability and operational efficiency.


Why is it important?


Aspect of Labor CostsImportanceApplication in Restaurant Management
Profitability AnalysisDirectly impacts the restaurant's profitability.Understanding labor costs helps in maintaining financial health and making informed pricing and operational decisions.
Operational EfficiencyReflects on the efficiency of workforce utilization.Efficient staff scheduling and task management can optimize labor costs without compromising service quality.
Staffing StrategyIndicates the effectiveness of staffing levels and wage rates.Guides decisions on hiring, training, and employee retention strategies to maintain a balanced workforce.
Competitive PositioningReveals whether the restaurant's labor costs align with industry standards.Helps in ensuring competitive pay rates and staffing levels to attract and retain quality staff.

How is it calculated?


Labor Cost Percentage = (Total Labor Cost / Total Revenue) * 100

Worked Example: Restaurant X

  • Total Revenue: $50,000
  • Total Labor Cost: $15,000 (including wages, benefits, and payroll taxes)

Labor Cost Percentage for Restaurant X: (15,000 / 50,000) * 100 = 30%


Good to know:


  • The ideal labor cost percentage varies by the type of restaurant and industry standards, generally ranging from 20% to 35% of total revenue.

  • Fine dining establishments may have higher labor costs due to more extensive service requirements.

  • Regularly tracking and adjusting labor cost percentage is crucial for balancing operational efficiency, service quality, and profitability.

  • High labor costs may necessitate reevaluating staffing levels or operational methods, while exceptionally low costs could impact service quality and employee satisfaction.
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10. Staff Turnover Rate

What is it?


Staff turnover rate in a restaurant is the rate at which employees leave and are replaced over a specific period. It is a vital metric indicating the stability of the workforce and the overall health of the restaurant's work environment.


Why is it important?


High staff turnover can lead to increased costs due to recruiting, hiring, and training new staff. It also disrupts operational efficiency, affects employee morale, and can compromise customer service quality. Maintaining a low turnover rate is crucial for operational consistency, cost efficiency, and a positive customer experience.


How is it calculated?


Staff Turnover Rate = (Number of Employees Leaving / Average Number of Employees) * 100

Worked Example: Restaurant X

  • Assume Restaurant X has an average of 20 employees.
  • Over a year, 6 employees leave the restaurant.

Staff Turnover Rate = (6/20) * 100 = 30%

This means Restaurant X has a staff turnover rate of 30% for the year.


Good to know:


Here are some of the biggest factors affecting staff turnover and how you can reduce them:


Factors Affecting Staff TurnoverEffective Strategies to Reduce Turnover
Work EnvironmentCreate a supportive and inclusive culture where restaurant staff can feel safe to communicate their concerns or suggestions.
Compensation and BenefitsOffer fair wages and attractive benefits to your staff, with financial incentives to meet team goals.
Work-Life BalanceImplement flexible work schedules to accommodate the personal needs of your staff, promoting a better work-life balance.
Career Advancement OpportunitiesProvide clear paths for professional growth within your restaurant, including training programs and promotion opportunities.
Management and LeadershipEnsure that your management team practices fair, transparent, and supportive leadership, and regularly recognizes staff contributions.
Job SatisfactionFoster a positive workplace where employees feel valued and are motivated by their work, colleagues, and the restaurant's culture.
High Turnover RatesAddress the root causes of high turnover, such as inadequate training or understaffing, to create a more stable workforce.

Check out our Guide to Hiring Restaurant Staff

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Takeaways

  1. Track COGS (Cost of Goods Sold): Regularly monitor the total cost of food and beverage ingredients. Use this data to set appropriate menu prices and maintain profit margins.

  1. Optimize Gross Profit: Subtract COGS from total revenue to understand your restaurant's basic profitability and assess the efficiency of menu pricing and food cost control.

  1. Monitor Net Profit: Deduct all operating expenses from gross profit. Use this to gauge actual profitability and inform financial decisions, including budgeting and strategy.

  1. Assess Per-Person Spend: Calculate the average amount each customer spends to evaluate pricing strategies and customer spending patterns. Tailor menu options and promotions accordingly.

  1. Evaluate Average Table Occupancy: Track the percentage of occupied tables to analyze demand and optimize staffing and space utilization.

  1. Calculate Guests Served Per Hour: Use this metric for operational efficiency and service quality, especially in quick-service restaurants.

  1. Analyze Prime Costs: Combine food and labor costs to assess operational efficiency and profitability. Regularly compare against total sales to ensure sustainability.

  1. Reduce Order Errors: Track the frequency of order mistakes and implement training and technology solutions to minimize them, enhancing customer satisfaction and operational efficiency.

  1. Control Labor Costs: Regularly calculate labor cost as a percentage of total revenue to balance staffing levels, wages, and profitability. Adjust as needed for competitive positioning.

  1. Manage Staff Turnover Rate: Maintain a stable workforce by addressing factors like work environment, compensation, work-life balance, and career opportunities. High turnover rates can impact costs, operational efficiency, and customer experience.

Implementing these strategies will provide restaurant owners with a comprehensive understanding of their business performance, helping to drive efficiency, customer satisfaction, and profitability.

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