Measure Restaurant Sales to Determine Labor Needs

By David Scott Peters

Creating the schedule in a restaurant is like fitting together the pieces of a puzzle. A proper functioning schedule is vital to your business. But putting all the right people in all the right places is just part of writing a schedule. The other part is knowing what your true needs really are.

Here at, we teach several different kinds of systems that make your independent restaurant operate more efficiently, more profitably and without you.

For labor systems, the key measurement is dollars per labor hour. This number will tell you with certainty when you don’t have enough labor and when you have too much labor scheduled for a certain shift.

But even quantitative measurements can lie. You have to be careful because you could be hitting your labor numbers and still be setting up your restaurant for disaster by having a combination of shifts that are either under staffed or over staffed. That’s when it’s important to combine your quantitative data (such as the numbers) with your qualitative data (the things you see in the restaurant along with your gut).

Ideally you want the right amount people in place for the needs of the business and no more.

To get there, first focus on your quantitative measurement and begin tracking your dollars per labor hour. Dollars per labor hour is sales divided by hours. This tells you how many dollars are coming in the restaurant per hour worked. It’s a road map to scheduling your hours in the right places. You’ll see trends and be able to move hours from less-efficient shifts to over-efficient shifts.

Efficiencies are different for everyone’s restaurant, so track your dollars per labor hour and realize that three weeks is what makes a trend.

And if your gut is telling you something different, pay attention. But don’t forego the numbers just because it doesn’t feel right. Change is hard for everyone, and if your team is used to having a dishwasher on Thursday nights, they’re not going to like it if you tell them they’re not getting one anymore. Observe what Thursday nights are really like and what is really needed. Then compare that to your quantitative results of your dollars per labor hour and make an educated decision, not a guess.

The most important thing is to just get started, gather the information you need to combine your gut instincts with solid numbers.

David Scott Peters TheRestaurantExpert (1)David Scott Peters is a restaurant expert, speaker, coach and trainer for independent restaurant owners. He is the developer of SMART Systems Pro, an online restaurant management software program helping the independent restaurant owner remain competitive and profitable in an industry boxed in by the big chain restaurants. He is best known as the SMART Systems guy who can walk into any restaurant and find $10,000 in undiscovered cash before he hits the back door… Guaranteed! Learn more at


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