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Navigating Restaurant Uncertainty with Data Visibility

Posted by Chuck

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With changes taking effect across the restaurant industry in response to COVID 19 (full business shutdowns or limited operations), I'd argue that if you pivoted and changed direction and now offer online ordering, delivery and curbside pickup, then understandings around operational execution, while always very important, are even more critical.  Visibility into and clarity around that execution is necessary to your long-term success.

And that visibility comes from your ability to transform your data into actionable information which, in turn, delivers clarity for you and your team.

navigating data- compass

Issues such as speed of service, labor scheduling, menu modification, guest feedback and cleanliness are imperative to ensuring your guests will want to order from you and keep coming back.


Having near real-time information in the hands of your existing operations team is critical to seeing clearly where things are going well and where they’re not, so action can be taken at locations when and where needed.

In a world where Social Distancing and Self Quarantine are the new normal, this capability will allow your OPS team members to cover more locations in the event you find team members suddenly unavailable and will also avoid unnecessary contact with / trips to locations where things are going well.


If you weren’t one of the restaurants already doing delivery, carry out or curbside pickup then you’ll first want to examine your menu and determine which of your menu items are most suitable for these activities.

Assuming you have a range of suitable menu items available, then focusing on ones that can be produced easily / quickly will help your team with speed of service and following this, where possible looking at ones that offer higher margins would be ideal.

You’ll also find fewer team members needed and speed of service are other benefits resulting from slimming down your menu.

Location, Location, Location

Next, examine where your restaurants are located. Are there ones situated on or near a Campus or Mall. Are others in a Rural, Suburban or Urban setting?  Examining these areas can help you determine whether a location should be open or closed.

For example, if one of your restaurants is located next to a college and they’ve told their students not to return to campus, would it be better to close this location all together during their absence?

More Location

Unforeseen changes in demand, created by the current situation (locations in / near hospitals, police / firefighters / first responders, etc.), may find extended hours of operation will produce higher than normal sales. Whereas, locations in urban buildings or transportation hubs may be better off closing temporarily as more people work from home.

Traffic patterns may have shifted as well, so I'd also look closely at your sales by hour vs labor consumed to further determine which locations should be open or closed - earlier / later.

Labor Scheduling

Adjusting your staff may be one of the most difficult decisions any restaurant operator will have to make. But, if you operate a casual dine restaurant (undisputedly one of the hardest hit segments) or are in one of the markets where delivery or curbside pick-up is all that’s allowed, you already know the tough choice you’ll have to make – layoff some of your staff.

Beyond these decisions, you’ll want to make sure to effectively communicate with your staff, so they know the steps you’re taking to ensure their safety and understand clearly what’s expected of them. Having a labor schedule will help you communicate effectively and ensure that you have the appropriate team members manning each location.

As part of your labor schedule, you’ll also want to properly manage labor allocation to minimize expense. So, what affects our labor allocation? Customer demand and employees on the clock are two main variables.

Understanding the ratio of how busy a location is at any time and how many employees are working is crucial to controlling labor cost. Visibility into this ratio can be seen by looking at your labor as a % of sales for every hour the restaurant is open. This will help you identify the hours where management may have had too much or too little labor on the clock for the demand.

We understand in this uncertain time many restaurants are trying to keep as many team members working as possible but, paying not only the wages but all the bills so the operation remains open is imperative, which means closely managing labor remains a must.

Last, but not least, make sure your team members know who to contact in the event of a schedule change. Having the correct team at each location everyday will help maximize your speed of service and along with that guest satisfaction.


You’ve always had a strong structure around your cleaning procedures and now you’ve taken steps to enhance that even further and some have gone above and beyond by adding sanitation specialists for added visibility. Given the current environment it goes without saying, you can’t stress enough, the importance of communication regarding your cleanliness.  From your website to your restaurants, it's important for you to actively communicate what your staff is doing to maintain a clean and safe environment for themselves and guests. 

Guest Feedback

We know today that cleanliness has slipped a notch in importance to your guests but not so fast because according to a recent study, it's right behind seeing your staff outfitted in PPE and taking steps to ensure their safety - like cleaning.

To help, you’ll want to measure and report on the key metrics important to executing on your customer experience promise. Whether its data gathered from your POS, Drive Thru Timers, Web Portal, Loyalty, Social Media or all of these along with the myriad of other ways available to gather voice of your customer it’s important to:

Continuously monitor activity to ensure you’re consistently delivering on your brands promise of excellent customer service. Adjust as needed.


Further, when it comes to your marketing efforts today, it may be better to lead with your sanitation efforts as opposed to images of well-prepared foods. In short, you can’t over communicate the steps you’ve taken / are taking to ensure the cleanliness of your facilities, protect your employees and guests in these uncertain times.


While information regarding the COVID-19 crisis is changing by the minute, one constant we know from our clients is being able to transform their data into actionable information is helping them see opportunities as well as issues more quickly / clearly and adjust as needed.

Leveraging your data to manage the risks challenging the business is imperative to surviving through this crisis and quite possibly coming out stronger and better positioned to tackle the growth as the crisis begins to abate. If your company is interested in exploring how we might be able to provide you and your teams with greater access to actionable information click the button below to contact us. 

Restaurant Data Management & Reporting Software

Topics: Restaurant Marketing, Restaurant Operations, Restaurant Performance


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