With these reports, you’ll have the information you need to optimize your restaurant’s performance.

Point-of-sale (POS) systems are a surefire way for any restaurateur to improve the productivity and staff morale at his or her eatery. These systems make it faster for wait staff to take and input orders and easier for the kitchen to see what’s coming in. However, there’s more functionality to POS systems than just day-to-day operations.

Most current POS systems have dozens of built-in reports that can be customized and pulled at will. If you’re new to POS system reporting, it can be difficult to figure out which reports you need and which ones you can skip. While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to restaurant reporting, there are a few categories that are useful for nearly all restaurant owners.

These are five of the most broadly used and universally functional POS reports you should be pulling monthly.

Sales reports

Even basic POS systems have built-in sales reports, and most are able to give you an output of numbers as well as visuals, such as graphs and pie charts. Sales reports usually reflect the number of sales and the value of those sales as well as basic stats like the mean, median and mode of sales. POS systems allow users to pull sales reports on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly or annual basis. Daily sales reports can be helpful for entrepreneurs with new or struggling restaurants, while more experienced restaurateurs typically rely on monthly, quarterly and yearly reports. Comparing annual sales reports from different years can give small business owners a sense of how their restaurants are progressing and help them identify seasonal trends.

Inventory reports

A surprising number of restaurateurs, especially those new to the business, don’t bother pulling inventory reports. They operate under the assumption that everything is fine so long as sales outpace costs, but there’s always room for optimization. Inventory reports are vital for making sure costs are being maintained. Without pulling regular inventory reports, restaurants open themselves up to higher levels of employee theft as well as greater instances of running out of vital items. When restaurants regularly cut menu items because of poor stock planning, it reflects poorly on them, and customers are less likely to return. Inventory issues can also result in disgruntled employees. Running out of basic items, whether they’re menu items or dry goods, makes everyone’s jobs extremely stressful, and a stressed-out staff cannot deliver quality customer service.

Product mix and menu reports

General sales reports give you a good picture of your restaurant’s overall success, stagnancy or failure, but they won’t show you exactly what’s selling and what isn’t. Product mix reports and menu reports allow restaurant owners to track sales by time and item. So, you can set the parameters and find out exactly what sells best and worst for breakfast, lunch and dinner. You can do comparisons based on weekend dinner versus weeknight dinner; most reports also allow you to designate specific date ranges, so you can pull reports based on seasonality as well. This type of itemized data is helpful for restaurant owners who might otherwise rely on anecdotal feedback from chefs and wait staff to determine which menu items are popular. The more you know about what your customers want, the easier it is to cater to their needs.

Exception reports

Sales exception reports show you every void, refund, gift certificate-covered purchase and discount your staff has issued over a selected date range. This information can help you identify staff members who may need more training, but it can also be a helpful tool for loss prevention. One of the biggest obstacles restaurant owners face is their staff giving unapproved discounts to friends or giving large discounts to regulars in exchange for inflated tips. While many restaurant owners allow their wait staff to give out a specified number of discounts per night, without any oversight, this type of customer service can cost you thousands of dollars a week. Exception reports help you maintain quality customer service while minimizing costly preferential treatment of staff friends and regulars.

Labor reports

Also known as employee reports, labor reports provide insight into the efficacy of your staff and illuminate weak links. Labor reports often allow you to see the percentage cost breakdowns of different departments (front of house versus back of house) as well as by individual. You can measure productivity by viewing how many sales each wait staff member is responsible for or how many orders different kitchen staff members are fulfilling, which can be helpful when you need to promote someone to manager, cut off a weak link, or tell the difference between personal staff arguments that have nothing to do with work and valid complaints about someone not pulling their weight.

Bottom line

Not every POS system has the same reporting functionality, but most modern systems have at least a few general reports. Before you purchase a POS system, you should find out what the reporting capabilities are to make sure they suit your needs. If you run a niche restaurant with unique needs, you may want to inquire about custom reporting options. Some POS systems come with software that allows you to custom-create a variety of reports.

This post first appeared on www.business.com. You can read it here.

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