What Keeps Restaurant Owners Up at Night?

By: AJ Beltis

7 Minute Read

Jun 21, 2018

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Whatkeepsyouupatnight

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What keeps you up at night?

This is a complicated question - especially when asked to someone working in a restaurant industry.

"Is it finally time to let Sam go?"
"Why are our sales slumping all of a sudden?"
"Did I order enough chicken for the week?"

You name it - there are a slew of thoughts that keep restaurateurs tossing and turning all night long.

We reached out to a few of our fantastic customers - restaurant owners and professionals just like you - and asked them a simple question: What restaurant concerns keep you up at night?

As I read through the responses, common themes became evident and similar issues arose. The silver lining, however, is that many of these problems can be solved.

Here are five of the biggest problems that keep restaurant owners up at night and some resources you can employ to help you sleep tight.

1) "What in the world do I do about my staff?"

Jonathan Schroeter of IL Primo's Pizza & Wings answered the question of what keeps him up at night with the following response:

"Staff Retention - Who is going to quit on me tomorrow without giving a notice?"

Jonathan wasn't the only restaurateur stressing about staff. Far and away, concerns over restaurant staff were the most common in those that we heard from.

More than half of those who responded mentioned scheduling, retention, and/or shift management as something that keeps them up at night. General Manager of Paris Creperie Jack Ludden summarized every restaurant owner's biggest challenge with his two-word response: "Staffing issues."

Some other responses include:

  • The dilemma of whether or not to fire an all-star cook who is consistently late despite warnings (Submitted by Cynthia Ivy of Jack's Restaurant).
  • Being unsure if you can trust your employees (Submitted by Joe Guenther from O'Maddy's).
  • Stressing about covering someone else's shift (Submitted by Saara Kuure, Kitchen Manager at The C Shop).

This issue doesn't just plague our respondents. The turnover rate in the hospitality industry sits at over 70%, which seriously impacts restaurant operations.

Solution - The Restaurant Staffing Guide: How to Hire, Manage, and Lead the Perfect Team

Since hiring and training employees continues to be the biggest challenge for restaurants, it seems only natural that something be done to fix this problem.

The Toast Restaurant Staffing Guide is a free resource for restaurant owners on how to staff a restaurant wisely and manage employees with ease. It also contains chapters on:

  • Hiring Campaigns and the Interview Process
  • Onboarding and Training
  • Avoiding Employee Turnover
  • And so much more

Click here to download a free copy of The Restaurant Staffing Guide.

2) "How can I boost my sales?"

Julie Stark from Mongers Market + Kitchen told us the struggle of increasing business is one of her stress-inducers, while Elena Dellutri of Ye Olde Falcon Pub is always crossing her fingers for a very busy night.

The good news is the restaurant industry is doing well. Sales have grown for the past seven years, which means Americans are going out to eat more often. However, with more than one million restaurant locations in the country, it's easy for your restaurant to be seen as just another player in a very big game.

So, how can you increase your restaurant sales?

Solution - Restaurant Loyalty Program

If someone is going to choose you over a competitor, it's not a bad idea to incentivize them and reward them for their visits. In fact, research shows this is a good way to increase your restaurant's sales.

Loyalty programs increase both the amount of money your guests spend and how many times they visit your restaurant. LevelUp found that customers spend 39% more when they are close to unlocking a new reward. Additionally, guest visitation frequency increases by 75% between their first and tenth reward.

If you're looking to introduce a loyalty program in your restaurant, check out some of these articles for best practices and creative ideas:

3) "How do I increase customer satisfaction?"

Greg Schmitz, Owner of Palm Greens Cafe, lists customer satisfaction as one of his late-night thoughts.

In fact, it seems like everyone's concern revolves - in some way - around customer satisfaction. After all, a bad meal, a sour interaction with a staff member, or finding out a favorite meal can't be made because you ran out of beef all impact customer satisfaction.

Customer satisfaction is intertwined with nearly every aspect of your restaurant. In this industry, dissatisfied customers typically means no customers.

Solution -

Ine simple slip-up can lose you a customer forever. I don't need to tell you that this is not a good thing for your restaurant.

But what happens when that dissatisfied customer tells one person? Five people? What if they do what most dissatisfied customers do and tell between 9 and 15 people?

This ebook equips you with the knowledge to manage all aspects of your restaurant, including:

  • Your Finances
  • Your Technology
  • Yourself
  • And all the incidentals you haven't thought of.

Don't leave anything to chance. It's time to take control over your restaurant and ensure a consistently satisfying customer experience for all of your guests.

4) "How the heck do I do inventory?"

One night, Michelle Tapscott from J-Mack BBQ woke up in a panic because she forgot to place her inventory order. Talk about an inventory nightmare!

The logistics of running a restaurant are never easy. Jazmin of Campbell of Flour Bakery + Cafe spoke of the struggles of invoicing and scheduling - something no restaurateur can honestly say they enjoy.

Specifically, inventory is an enormous area of concern for restaurant owners. Variance, spillage, and theft lead to the unaccounted loss of inventory, which negatively impacts your restaurant's bottom line. Tasks like these aren't easy, but they can be made easier if you understand how to perfect your systems.


inventory_1-01.pngInventory tracking is an essential part of restaurant management. If you can't do this, it's either time to find somebody who can, consider a career change, or learn the best ways to track, measure, and manage inventory.

Toast Senior Product Manager Rohit Shenoy sat down with Restaurant Consultant Donald Burns to discuss inventory best practices for restaurants in this webinar on restaurant inventory made simple.

The webinar covers advanced tactics for the experienced restaurateur and explains how to set up reliable systems for those new to inventory tracking. When poor inventory tracking leads to loss of profit every day, why not take an hour and learn how to become a restaurant inventory expert?




5) "Where can we save money?"

When Joe Guenther from O'Maddy's Bar & Grille rests his head at night, he can't close his eyes without asking himself, "where can we save money?"

Expenses in restaurants add up quickly. There's food & beverage inventory, employee wages (and overtime), cleaning fees, kitchen supplies, and utility costs...just to name a few. 

Because of the competition in restaurants, many are operating on thin margins as it is. With food prices rising continuously, there needs to be a way to save money in restaurants - but how?

Solution - Toast Point of Sale 

The savings are enough of a money-saver as it is. But let's talk about some of the way that Toast POS can save restaurant owners a substantial amount of money.

  • Increase table turns by up to 20%
  • Boost the amount of loyal customers by up to 10x
  • Have your staff see an increase in tips by up to 30%
  • Save money on online ordering by doing away with percentage-based pricing from third-party online ordering websites
  • Track sales and labor reports to find out your strongest and weakest additions to your menu and staff, then make the proper money-saving adjustments from there. 

Request your demo of Toast POS here.


Time for the age-old question: what keeps you up at night, and how do you address the stresses of running a restaurant?

Let us know in the comments below. Sleep tight!

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