How You Can Use Data to Increase Your Restaurant Sales

Jul 31, 2023 4:48:42 PM

Keeping up with the competition in the food service industry and ensuring high sales can be as much of a science as it is an art.

An often overlooked underutilized ingredient in this mix is all the data you gather during your operations. 

Data can offer unprecedented insights to turbocharge your restaurant's performance, and this article is your guide on how to harness it effectively.

We'll explore several facets of restaurant data, unfolding how they can enhance your menu, refine the guest experience, reward loyal patrons, and upgrade your marketing efforts.

Ready for the appetizer? Let's dive into how sales data can reshape your menu.

Use Sales Data to Optimize Your Menu

Your restaurant’s menu is of your strongest assets, and by utilizing sales data, you can take it to the next level.

While running your day-to-day operations, your restaurant is constantly accumulating valuable data. 

Yet, despite its importance, many restaurateurs overlook this data, particularly that which is accumulated by your Point of Sale (POS) system. 

Let’s see how to change this trend and utilize your sales data.

If you peek into your POS system, you will encounter the sales data for each menu item, which could look something like the following table.

Item Quantity Sold Cost per Item Menu Price
Margherita Pizza 800 $3.80 $8.00
Chicken Parmesan 250 $4.00 $13.00
Caesar Salad 100 $4.80 $5.50

Our example provides a simplified representation, but you get the idea. 

By analyzing the quantity of sold items, their cost, and menu price, you can calculate each item’s profitability and popularity.

In our example, the Margherita Pizza item is the top seller, which makes it the most popular item, while if you subtract the cost from the menu price, you’ll see that the Chicken Parmesan is the most profitable item, bringing $9 of profit per unit sold.

But how can you leverage this data to optimize your menu? Well, you can use it for item pricing and menu layout decisions. Let’s focus on the latter.


Source: Tablein

Check out the image above, showing two versions of a menu. 

The first is haphazardly arranged, while the second is strategically organized using the previously mentioned sales data. 

The second menu places the most profitable item, Chicken Parmesan, at the top and highlights it. 

It also has the Margherita Pizza, which also drives significant sales and profits, listed next. 

The layout is not random but an example of menu engineering, guiding guests to buy the most profitable and popular items.

For more on this topic, we have an in-depth article about menu engineering practices that you should consider reading.

Overall, by diving deep into your sales data and leveraging it to revamp your menu, you can significantly increase your sales and profitability.

Use Occupancy Data to Fill Your Empty Tables

Running a restaurant isn’t just about knowing what your patrons like to eat. It's also about understanding when and how they prefer to dine. 

This information helps in making key decisions that can increase your capacity and, subsequently, your sales.

The big question is: where do you get such data? While sales data is readily available from a typical POS system, occupancy data is a bit more elusive. 

Here's where a restaurant reservation system, like our very own Tablein, can come in handy.


Source: Tablein

From the image above, it's evident that Tablein collects a plethora of occupancy data, such as the number of reservations made through different mediums, walk-ins, cancellations, and the dreaded no-shows.

Speaking of no-shows, this particular piece of data can significantly impact your restaurant's bottom line. 

If you don’t notice a sudden increase in no-shows, it could potentially spell doom for your sales. 

But armed with Tablein’s reports, you can take certain countermeasures in a timely manner. 

For example, you can set up a reservation deposit policy, which can serve as a financial safety net for your business.

Another smart way to utilize occupancy data is by identifying your restaurant's most and least busy hours, which Tablein records and summarizes in neat charts like the one shown below.


Source: Tablein

Notice the dip in bookings from 2 to 4 PM in our example? 

If you had this data available, you would want to spring into action and craft an enticing promotion that aligns with these hours.

For instance, you can try something like the promotion we show below.


Source: Boomerang

So, what will this do for your sales? Simply put, an attractive offer will act as an incentive to fill your tables during slow periods. 

Guests will be more likely to book a table to capitalize on a great and affordable deal, and you will get steady sales throughout the day as a return.

Remember, using occupancy data isn’t just a one-time analysis but an ongoing process that you should regularly monitor. 

And with modern booking systems like Tablein, it becomes significantly easier to make these data-driven decisions and adapt to the fluctuating tides of your operations.

Use Guest Data to Personalize the Guest Experience

Now, let's focus a bit more on your guests.

Each of your customers brings along a wealth of data that you can use to make their visit to your restaurant even more enjoyable. 

A great reservation system might store this data in a comprehensive guest book, providing you with access to some of the details shown in the image below.


Source: Tablein

When you look at the types of data you can gather from your guests, it's clear that they can offer a unique perspective on your operations. 

Imagine a scenario where a regular visitor who has been frequenting your establishment suddenly changes their pattern. 

Say their bookings become less frequent, and the average feedback score drops.

In this case, you could proactively contact this customer, initiate a conversation about any potential service issues, and try to personalize and tailor their experience.

The potential of guest data continues beyond problem resolution. 

It extends to enhancing the overall experience of your patrons by creating a personalized approach to their needs and preferences.

Your staff can and should take guest notes about your patrons, as these little pieces of data can provide valuable insights.


Source: Tablein

As you can see in the image above, along with each guest’s customer’s contact info, staff can take note of their food preferences, occupation, loyalty status, allergies, and other details. 

This practice provides a unique opportunity to tailor your services and make your guests’ visits memorable.

If you knew someone was a vegetarian, you could suggest a newly introduced veggie dish. 

Similarly, if they had an allergy, you would ensure their meal was prepared according to their dietary needs. 

What if one of your guests was a food blogger? In that case, you really wouldn’t want to leave a bad impression.

Overall, using guest data is a powerful tool for personalizing the dining experience and creating a bond between your restaurant and its patrons, making them feel seen and valued.

Use Customer Data to Reward Your Loyal Customers

With this customer data you’ve collected, you can also reward those guests who appreciate your food and service the most.

Having loyal customers who consistently choose your establishment over others is an accomplishment in itself. 

But it's also an opportunity for you to further cement this relationship. 

The key to doing this is first identifying your loyal patrons, and you can easily achieve that by analyzing your customer data. 

As you start this analysis, you might notice some patterns. 

These loyal customers often boast the following:

  • Most frequent visits
  • Least number of cancellations
  • No missed reservations
  • High average feedback ratings

Once you identify them, you can start thinking about ways to reward your loyal patrons for their trust and patronage.

First, you might want to mark these customers in a special way so your staff can easily differentiate the regulars, offering a chance to enhance their dining experience.

There are many ways to accomplish this goal. In Tablein, for instance, you can tag these patrons as VIPs.


Source: Tablein

And afterward, staff can filter the reservation list to see only these particular customers. 

Now, what about rewards? The image below shows some suggestions that are commonly used to show your regulars that little extra care.


Source: Tablein

Small gestures like a slice of birthday cake on their special day, a complimentary glass of wine, or an occasional discount can make your loyal customers feel valued and encourage them to become repeat customers.

By identifying, marking, and rewarding your loyal customers, you create an atmosphere of appreciation and personalization that will undoubtedly be noticed. 

This practice will inevitably foster stronger relationships, increased loyalty, and as a result, continuous sales from these patrons.

Use Conversion Data to Improve Your Marketing Efforts

As our final suggestion on using data to increase your sales, we turn to the marketing world.

Throughout your restaurant's life cycle, marketing efforts are a crucial element that keeps your business engine running. 

An effective marketing strategy is not just about execution as it's equally important to measure its performance and make adjustments when necessary. 

In this context, data emerges as a savior.

Let’s say you tried some of the 11 different marketing ideas we outlined in this article, such as the following:


Source: Tablein

Each initiative is designed to attract potential customers, but how do you validate their success?

Here is where conversion data steps in. 

Namely, the statistics showing how many customers take some desired actions, such as making a reservation or placing an online order.

Say, for example, you optimized a website as a marketing tactic. 

After upgrading its design and filling it with enticing food photos, you would most likely place a clear call-to-action button for customers to reserve a table.


Source: Kushi-ya

You've worked hard, infused your site with SEO, and driven traffic through various marketing campaigns, Google, and discovery platforms. 

Your expectations might be high, but how do you measure the return on your efforts?

To do so, you would calculate your restaurant website conversion rate with the formula outlined below.


Source: Tablein

In our case, the total number of conversions could be the number of online reservations made through your website. 

Say that your website visits had increased, but the bookings remained stagnant. Then, it would be time to revisit your strategy. 

On the other hand, if your conversions have increased, but your website visits haven’t, it would mean your efforts have convinced your existing customers to make a booking. 

In this case, you would maintain this positive trend while working on strategies to expand your reach.

This example is just one aspect of conversion data. There are numerous other metrics, like bounce rate, exit rate, and average session duration, to name a few. 

They are beyond the scope of this article, but we urge you to explore them as well.

Each has its own insights, and all can help drive sales in one way or another, so make sure to explore and use this valuable data in your operations. 


If you've reached this point, you've successfully journeyed through the practice of data analysis in the restaurant industry. 

Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of how crucial various pieces of data can be to your establishment’s sales. 

Harnessing this information can optimize the entire dining experience you offer, from giving you insights on your menu to helping you create a harmonious balance between providing personalized service, ensuring your tables are always filled, and keeping your loyal customers happy. 

The knowledge you've gained can catalyze changes that bring about a surge in sales and take your restaurant to new heights.

So, use some of the insights we presented and watch how your sales figures steadily grow.