What is Forecasting for Restaurants?

So, this actually does have something to do with the weather, our favorite topic here in Canada. Winter is coming to the Ontario region very soon, with this comes a general slowdown in the tourism trade. And of course this includes all related aspects of tourism, restaurants, hotels and so on. We already know that after the merriment and holiday festivities are finished, Canadian hibernation begins. And will last until Spring, whenever that is…

Operating a successful restaurant requires restaurant owners and managers to focus not only on managing day-to-day operations, but also evaluating ways to reduce costs and grow future sales. Currently, some of the most powerful restaurant management systems on the market feature predictive tools around food and labor costs.

Forecasting won’t lead to perfectly accurate results every day but forecasting for restaurants is vital to recognizing trends and responding proactively. Forecasting based on historical data can provide insight into your two largest costs, food and labor, and help you make essential decisions about where to put your resources, when.


Forecasting for restaurants is estimating key metrics like future sales, customer traffic, or menu item ordering mix based on historical sales data, economic trends, or market analysis. Sales forecasts, based on integrated POS data pulled from your restaurant operations software, are particularly powerful tools in the restaurant industry.

Think about the difference between a Friday happy hour versus a Sunday brunch. By reviewing historical sales in each time period, you can see how sales fluctuate throughout the day, allowing you to have labor applied when it is needed the most. This will require gathering historical average sales amount data per time period, which can be extremely labor intensive and tedious to do without the proper tools such as POS systems, culinary software and manually collected data.

Once you know your labor matrix, consider employee data when working to meet your labor cost goals. Employee preferences are a factor to keep in mind, as increased employee satisfaction can lead to reduced turnover, further lowering your labor costs. By using collected employee availability to match projected sales, you can use up-to-date information to create schedules informed by forecast restaurant sales data.

Inventory Projections

Your inventory projections should start with sales data forecasting, tracking your daily sales trend between this year and last year. First, by averaging sales by day of the week for the prior eight weeks, you can compare those numbers to the average sales by day of the week for the same eight weeks the previous year. From there, you can determine the trend increase (or decrease) in sales this year. Finally, you can apply that trend percentage by day of the week in the period for which you are forecasting.

Looking at Past Years and Seasonal Trends

These forecasts should also consider past years and seasonal business growth trends. As a restaurant owner or operator, you can analyze the core components of your forecast by using your own experience and knowledge. Take a look at the growth trend, but also consider weekly fluctuations and annual historical sales seasonality. In addition, consider other unique real-time variables, such as weather, events, and traffic.


Kind of a boring but important topic. Ignoring historical data ultimately affects your bottom line profit. Without this information it’s a guessing game which leads to under/over production of food, and potential labor shortages or overstaffing. All of which translate into money lost. If you don’t believe me, look at most of the winners in the market; McDonalds, pizza pizza and just about every QSR restaurant out there use historical metrics to plan! It doesn’t have to be as intensive a process for the small operator, but the information should be collected and logged in some manner for reference. Cheers, and happy humpday! 45 sleeps until Christmas!

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