The Utility of Operational Business Intelligence for Restaurants

George Cowgill

When we look at the multi-unit restaurant industry, two things stand out - margins are tighter than ever and the need to control costs and manage efficiently is paramount.' Managers need easy access to performance data and they need to be able to 'see' the underlying operational factors that are affecting a store's overall performance.' A first step to making this a reality is getting access to the performance data.

The heart of the restaurant's financial and operational performance can be found in the data of most Point of Sale (POS) systems.' However, with many POS systems, the reports and metrics provide limited operational insights, are cumbersome to access, and difficult to use.' With the ever-increasing pressure to operate efficiently, a system that can access the raw POS data and provide 'anywhere, anytime' access to reports and operational insights is required.

As you identify the best POS system for your business, maintaining your own data and having open API access to the data is critical.'' The POS system must support API-level access to all the data collected and stored.' The focus of many POS systems is the basic flow of revenue, inventory, and labor costs and these systems don't always provide the types of reports and insights a manager needs.' A POS system with open access to your data will allow you to use a supplemental BI system, that is mobile friendly, and provides timely reports and operational insights.

Examples of reports and insights that can be provided with a supplemental BI system include:

  • Prime Cost ' This provides a quick view of the controllable expenses per store
  • Same-Store Sales, with Period comparison ' This allows a general manager to quickly identify any underperforming stores
  • Food/Beverage Expenses vs Total Sales ' This report, when viewed across multiple units, helps flag any anomalies that can be addressed.
  • Revenue per seat per Restaurant ' another report that establishes trends and performance issues
  • Gross Sales vs. Labor Cost, per Day Part - This report provides insights into labor imbalances and provides ongoing visibility to upcoming staffing requirements
  • Average Bar/Food check, per Server - Can help identify server-related theft or fraud issues.
  • Average Mealtime - Derived from the POS and helps track back-of-the-house and front-of-the-house performance.



When visualized on mobile interfaces, with drill-down capabilities, these reports help busy restaurant managers focus their efforts on areas that control costs and offer the biggest improvements in the business.

23 has extensive experience in delivering Business Intelligence and cost monitoring solutions to franchises and multi-unit restaurant owners.' We offer a full suite of digital transformation products for the restaurant industry.' We will explore these capabilities further in this ongoing series of articles.