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When managing a restaurant on the store, district, or even regional level, it is vital to have up-to-date reports on a variety of operations metrics so that leaders can make important decisions that impact the overall health of the business. But today, so much data available at the operator’s fingertips that the process of finding the necessary reports and deciding what is important to know can be overwhelming and time consuming.

Having more data available means managers spend more time compiling and processing this information, and less time with staff members and guests, but not referencing reports is just as harmful, as making decisions without the facts can hurt the bottom line. So how can restaurant leaders find the right balance?

David Cantu, co-founder and chief customer officer for HotSchedules with more than 17 years of restaurant experience, shares the four vital reports restaurant managers and executives need to have to get through the day.

1. Sales

Because sales affect operations, the budget, and every other metric, this is the most important report for restaurant leaders to have and understand.

“The number one thing operators need to know is sales—where do they stand against their projections,” Cantu says. “If sales are down, managers can encourage employees to drive sales with contests or control labor expenses.”

That’s why it’s vital that restaurant operators and executives have an accurate, easy to reference sales report that shows daily, weekly, monthly, and even yearly sales volume versus forecast.

2. Labor

The next most important report operators should have is labor trends for the day, week, and month. Labor is the highest and most controllable cost associated with running a restaurant. By effectively managing payroll, managers can ensure that the store is adequately staffed to manage high-traffic and not overspending on days when sales are lower.

Operators should also have reports that break labor down by department in order to better manage payroll expenses. This can also help managers identify which areas of the store may be struggling to keep up with demand and might need additional staffing or training.

“Specific to labor, you need a breakdown by job code and station, and in some cases because of some legislation, managers are clocking in as hourly, and manager labor will need to be pulled out separately,” he says.

By having this detailed view of which areas are overspending on labor, managers can more effectively plan for the week and make adjustments that impact the bottom line. They can also help leaders address other costly issues, such as overtime, before it hurts margins.

3. Comps and Voids

Comp and void reporting is another key indicator of business health, and by paying attention to the number of affected transactions, stores can find potential issues before they become large-scale problems.

“Comps and voids are usually due to mistakes and errors that can also be viewed as an indicator on whether or not potential theft is occurring,” Cantu says.

These reports also help managers identify training issues. When a manager notices more comps or voids from a specific shift or specific person, they can identify people and teams that may be struggling and need extra instruction to avoid future mistakes.

4. Food Costs

Though food costs may not always be as controllable as labor expenses, monitoring these reports can help operators can get a better sense of how their stores are managing food.

“If you have a back office solution with real time food costs on what you’ve purchased and what you have in stock, in addition to whatever was rung up for the day, you can prepare better orders and manage food waste,” Cantu says.

If food expenses are high, managers can look for over ordering, which can lead to expiration of product, under ordering, which can lead to disappointed guests and missed sales, or food safety and storage issues, which lead to wasted product.

Though there are many types of reports that can help restaurant leaders better understand their businesses, having the data from these four types of reports can ensure that restaurant leaders on every level have the information they need to make sound business decisions. By focusing on vital information, restaurants can ensure that busy managers are not overwhelmed with too much information or spending too much time away from employees and guests, which can be the difference between great leadership and costly mistakes.

By Peggy Carouthers

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