Restaurant Planning: How to Develop Strategic, Data-Driven Goals

By: Ryan Gromfin

6 Minute Read

Apr 06, 2018

You must have Javascript enabled in order to submit forms on our website. If you'd like to contact Toast please call us at:

(857) 301-6002


Just so you know, we’ll handle your info according to our privacy statement.

Untitled Design 6 6
restaurant data-driven goals

What can be measured can be fixed.

This is why your restaurant should have established goals that are established and driven by data. Otherwise, your operation can be as frantic as a chicken running around with its head cut off.

In other words, restaurant planning is key.Goals give us targets, and targets give us something to measure our performance against. Without targets, your restaurant staff simply does the work without taking note of results and benchmarks. The fact of the matter, however, is that your restaurant has people who rely on it.

  • Your family.
  • Your employees' families.
  • Your vendors.
  • Your customers.
  • Even your community.

Plain and simple, the restaurant business is hard. Like any business, there are things you can do to make it harder or easier on yourself. Not having access to accurate, meaningful data in real time and not setting data-driven goals are great ways to make restaurant planning harder than it needs to be.

What Data-Driven Goals Should Your Restaurant Be Tracking?

While every restaurant will have specific KPI’s (key performance indicators) for their business, there are a few that all restaurants should be measuring to help with their restaurant planning.

  • Cost of Goods Sold: food cost, beverage cost, beer cost, wine cost, etc. (Learn more here)
  • Labor Cost (Learn more here)
  • Sales (Learn more here)
  • Check Average (Learn more here)
  • Prime Cost: total Cost of Goods Sold plus Total Labor (Learn more here)
  • Customer Counts (Learn more here)

setting restaurant goals

Allow me to draw a comparison. Inside of every airplane cockpit, there are six gauges that are required by law. You can have many more, but there are six - front and center - that will allow any pilot to navigate nearly any situation and get a plane to the ground safely. That instrument collection is know as your "six-pack," which is also what I refer to these six restaurant calculations as.

I believe that if you were tracking the above six metrics, your restaurant could always land safely. Even more importantly, they will help you avoid trouble well before it becomes a problem. If you're starting to set goals from scratch, begin with these six and add more metrics from there.

The results of these calculations are the metrics that will define with your restaurant planning.

What Should My Restaurant's Data-Driven Goals Be?

Contrary to everything you have likely read or been told, there is no standard food inventory cost or labor cost that your restaurant should set a goal of reaching.CTA

I'm sure you have heard that your food and labor costs should each be around 25% or 30%. But remember that there are no exact standards in this area. All that matters is that your restaurant sales are trending in the right direction week to week and month to month according to your set goals.

There are industry averages, but who cares? Those averages shoul not define your restaurant planning.

Planning for your restaurant should be based on what’s best for your restaurant. The reason I like tracking Prime Cost is because the total of your two biggest variable expenses combined can you give you a little better gauge of where you should be. With regards to sales, check average and customer counts are totally specific to your restaurant.

With that said, here are the six steps you should take to setting, keeping, and adjusting the data-driven goals of your restaurant.

6 Steps to Restaurant Planning and Setting Restaurant Goals

Step 1: Know Where You Are

The first step to setting effective data-driven goals is to know where you are. Your POS system should help you measure most (if not all) of the data, or your can use spreadsheets or find very affordable, simple software solutions to help with this.

Step 2: Know Where You Want To Go

Once you know where you are, then you can determine when you want to reach each data point. This should not be based on what the industry tells you it should be, but based on what would be best for your restaurant. Looking at industry averages is helpful, but keep in mind your concept could be radically different than average. Review your historical numbers and make some goals from there.

Step 3: Develop a Strategy To Get There

Setting the goal is great. Measuring it and checking in on a regular basis is what really matters in restaurant planning.

You will see results if you stop here, but if you implement proven strategies to help you improve each specific goal along with measuring them, then your results will be massive.

Step 4: Measure Along The Way

Setting an end-date for your goals is smart, but checking your results only on that end date is not. Make a point to check in on your goal performance every day, or at the very least a few times a week. This way you can make the needed changes as you go when you notice your performance might be slacking a bit.

After all, if you measure this only when your goals are due, there's no way to go back and make changes, is there?

Quick Reminder: This is a perfect time to check the data reports on your POS system to see if your performance is meeting, surpassing, or falling short of your goals. Having everything visually, in front of you, and in one place lets you analyze the data and measure your performance along the way to see if you actually are meeting your goals.

Step 5: Tweak The Path

If you do find yourself off-course, make the correction immediately.

The problem could be from one of two sources - your planning or your execution.

If your numbers seem excessive and you feel you're performing well, perhaps your goals were a bit too ambitious. Take things back a notch, adjust your expectations, and your numbers will start to fall in line.

If your numbers seem reasonable, perhaps the implementation of your goals is not up to par. Are you not holding your staff to the proper standards? Do you have a certain server who is severely underperforming compared to the rest of your staff? Take a deep dive into your data and see if you have a weak link - whether that could be a staff member, a menu item, or yourself - and remedy the situation.

Step 6: Rinse & Repeat!

Setting data-driven restaurant goals is not a one-time venture.

Never stop measuring, never stop improving, and never just assume you have things under control. There is always room for improvement, so when you hit one goal, set another one.

How to Start Creating and Measuring Your Restaurant Goals

“When would now be a good time?” – Tony Robbins

This is one of my favorite quotes because now is always the best time to get started. You might be confused, overwhelmed, and unsure how best to proceed.

And that's fine.

If you wait for the perfect solution and answers to all those questions, another year of average results and poor performance will pass you by. Pick one of the numbers, measure it by hand on a scratch piece of paper and go through all six steps. Just do yourself and your restaurant a favor - get started somewhere and get started today.

After that, then you can start getting better and better at it.

You must have Javascript enabled in order to submit forms on our website. If you'd like to contact Toast please call us at:

(857) 301-6002

First and Last Name is required
Phone Number is required
Restaurant Name is required

Are you a Toast customer? Log in to Toast.

Just so you know, we’ll handle your info according to our privacy statement.

DISCLAIMER: All of the information contained on this site (the “Content”) is provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal, accounting, tax, career or other professional advice. The Content is provided “as-is” without any warranty of any kind express or implied, including without limitation any warranty as to the accuracy, quality, timeliness, or completeness of the Content, or fitness for a particular purpose; Toast assumes no liability for your use of, or reference to the Content. By accessing this site, you acknowledge and agree that: (a) there may be delays in updating, omissions, or inaccuracies in the Content, (b) the Content should not be relied upon or used as a substitute for consultation with professional legal advisors, (c) you should not perform any act or make any omission on the basis of any Content without first seeking appropriate legal or professional advice on the particular facts or circumstances at issue and (d) you are solely responsible for your compliance with all applicable laws. If you do not agree with these terms you may not access or use the site or Content.