How to Calculate Restaurant Staffing Needs for Peak Hours

Master restaurant staffing during peak hours. Learn to analyze historical data, forecast sales, determine staffing ratios, and create effective schedules.

Labor Optimization
Master restaurant staffing during peak hours. Learn to analyze historical data, forecast sales, determine staffing ratios, and create effective schedules.
Michael Jones

Imagine a packed restaurant where chaos reigns instead of efficiency. This is the reality when hiring restaurant staff goes wrong during peak hours.

Proper restaurant staffing isn't just about numbers—it's the backbone of customer satisfaction and operational success. But how do restaurant owners determine the right number of staff for their busiest times?

This restaurant staffing guide offers a straightforward approach to calculating your staffing needs for peak hours across various restaurant positions. We'll equip you with practical steps to hire restaurant staff effectively, ensuring your team can handle the rush, and keeping both customers and your bottom line happy. Whether you're in fine dining, casual eateries, or any other sector of the hospitality industry, these insights will help you optimize your staffing strategy for success.

Know about how many staff members your restaurant need.

Understanding Peak Hours

Peak hours in restaurants are the busiest times when customer demand is highest. These periods typically occur during lunch (11:30 AM to 1:30 PM) and dinner (6:00 PM to 8:00 PM). However, peak hours can vary widely depending on several factors:

  • Location: Urban restaurants might see a lunch rush, while suburban spots may be busier at dinner.
  • Cuisine: A fast-food chain often experiences different peak times than a fine dining restaurant.
  • Customer Base: A restaurant near offices might be busiest at lunch, while one in an entertainment district could peak later in the evening.

How to Identify Your Restaurant's Peak Hours

To pinpoint your specific peak hours:

1. Analyze Sales Data and Customer Flow

Look at your sales records over time. This will show you when you're making the most money, which usually correlates with your busiest periods. Pay attention to:

  • Total sales per hour
  • Number of transactions per hour
  • Average transaction value during different times

2. Use Reservation and POS Systems

Modern technology can be a big help in tracking busy times:

  • Reservation Systems: If you take bookings, check which time slots fill up fastest.
  • POS (Point of Sale) Systems: POS systems often have built-in analytics that can show you your busiest hours, days, and even seasons.

By understanding your unique peak hours, you can start to plan your restaurant staffing more effectively, ensuring you have the right number of restaurant employees when you need them most.

Restaurant staffing

Analyzing Historical Data

Understanding your restaurant's past performance is crucial for predicting future staffing needs.

Gathering Key Information

1. Sales Records and Transaction Counts

To make informed staffing decisions, you need a comprehensive view of your restaurant's activity. Start by collecting:

  • Daily Sales Totals: This gives you an overview of your busiest and slowest days.
  • Hourly Transaction Counts: This reveals the ebb and flow of customer traffic throughout the day.
  • Average Check Sizes Per Hour: This helps you understand not just how many customers you serve, but also how much they're spending.

Most modern POS systems can generate these reports easily. Aim to gather data for at least the past 3-6 months to account for seasonal variations. Some restaurants find it helpful to look at a full year's worth of data to capture all seasonal trends.

2. Customer Feedback and Wait Times

Quantitative data is important, but don't overlook qualitative information:

  • Customer Reviews Mentioning Service Speed: Look for patterns in feedback about slow service or long waits.
  • Complaints or Compliments about Restaurant Staff Attentiveness: This can indicate whether you're understaffed or overstaffed.
  • Records of Wait Times During Different Periods: If you're not already tracking this, start now. Even informal records can be invaluable.

Making Sense of the Numbers

Spotting Patterns and Trends

Once you have your data, it's time to analyze it. Look for:

  • Consistent Busy Days or Hours: Are Fridays always your busiest day? Do you see a spike in business during happy hour?
  • Weekly Patterns: Many restaurants find they have a distinct weekly cycle, with weekends being busier than weekdays.
  • Monthly or Seasonal Fluctuations: Do you see more business in summer? Are there certain months that are consistently slower?

Create visual representations of your data to make patterns easier to spot. This could be as simple as a color-coded spreadsheet or as complex as a data visualization tool. Many restaurants find that heat maps are particularly useful for visualizing busy times.

For example, you might create a grid where each cell represents an hour of the week, and color code based on sales or customer count. This can quickly reveal patterns that might not be obvious from raw numbers.

Regular Busy Times vs. Special Events

It's crucial to differentiate between your normal operations and exceptional circumstances:

  • Normal Peak Hours: These are your regular busy times that occur consistently week after week. They form the backbone of your staffing plan.
  • Exceptional Events: These restaurant events might include holidays (like Mother's Day or Valentine's Day), local events (like nearby concerts or sports games), or your own promotional nights.

By separating these, you can create a baseline staffing plan for normal operations and develop separate strategies for special occasions. This prevents you from overstaffing during normal times or being caught off guard during special events.

For example, you might find that you need 50% more restaurant staff on Mother's Day compared to a typical Sunday. Knowing this allows you to plan ahead and ensure you're prepared for the rush.

Sales forecasting for restaurant staffing.

Sales Forecasting for Staffing

Why Sales Forecasting Matters

Sales forecasting is a critical tool for restaurant management, especially when it comes to staffing. It helps you:

  • Predict Busy Periods: By analyzing past sales data and trends, you can anticipate when you'll need more restaurant staff on hand.
  • Optimize Staffing Levels: Accurate forecasts allow you to schedule the right number of restaurant employees, avoiding both understaffing and overstaffing.
  • Manage Inventory: Forecasts help you stock the right amount of ingredients, reducing waste and ensuring you don't run out of popular items.

A study by the National Restaurant Association found that restaurants using sales forecasting techniques saw an average 2-3% increase in profitability due to improved staffing and inventory management.

How to Forecast Sales

1. Analyzing Historical Data

Start with your past sales data. Look for:

  • Day-to-day patterns
  • Weekly trends
  • Monthly and seasonal fluctuations

Many restaurants find that creating a "sales per labor hour" metric helps in staffing decisions. This shows you how much revenue you typically generate for each hour of labor.

2. Considering External Factors

Don't forget to account for:

  • Seasonal Events: Holidays, local festivals, or tourist seasons can significantly impact sales.
  • Weather: Many restaurants see changes in business based on weather patterns.
  • Economic Conditions: Keep an eye on local economic trends that might affect dining-out habits.

3. Using Forecasting Tools

While spreadsheets can work for basic forecasting, many restaurants are turning to specialized sales forecasting software for more accurate predictions. A standout example is 5-Out, an advanced sales forecasting tool designed specifically for restaurants.

5-Out offers several key advantages:

  • Extended Forecast Window: Predicts sales up to 35 days in advance with up to 98% accuracy, allowing for better long-term planning.
  • Comprehensive Data Analysis: Analyzes both internal data (labor, reservations) and external factors (weather, traffic, events, holidays) for a more holistic forecast.
  • Real-time Integration: Seamlessly integrates with your POS system for up-to-the-minute data.
  • Visual Representations: Provides easy-to-understand visual forecasts for quicker decision-making.

By using a tool like 5-Out, restaurants can significantly improve their forecasting accuracy. This leads to more efficient staffing, reduced labor costs, and improved overall operations. The high level of accuracy and the ability to factor in both internal and external data make 5-Out a valuable asset for restaurants looking to optimize their staffing and inventory management.

Turning Forecasts into Staffing Plans

Adjusting Staff Levels

Once you have your sales forecast:

  1. Determine your ideal sales-to-staff ratio. This is the amount of sales each employee can handle effectively and might vary for different roles (servers, kitchen staff, etc.).
  2. Use this ratio to calculate how many employees you need for each forecasted sales level. Divide your expected sales by the ratio to get the number of staff needed.
  3. Create a staffing schedule that aligns with your predicted busy and slow periods.

Building in Flexibility

Remember, forecasts are predictions, not guarantees. To accommodate potential inaccuracies:

  • Have on-call staff for unexpectedly busy times
  • Cross-train employees so they can fill multiple roles if needed
  • Use part-time staff to add flexibility to your scheduling

By mastering sales forecasting and applying it to your staffing strategy, you can significantly improve your restaurant's efficiency and profitability. It's a powerful tool that turns data into actionable insights, helping you make smarter decisions about your most valuable resource: your staff.

Determining restaurant staffing ratios.

Determining Staffing Ratios

Front-of-House Staffing Needs

Ideal Server-to-Customer Ratios

The right server-to-customer ratio is crucial for smooth operations:

  • Fine Dining: 1 server per 3-4 tables
  • Casual Dining: 1 server per 4-5 tables
  • Fast Casual: 1 server per 5-6 tables

Additional Front-of-House Roles

Don't forget other essential positions:

  • Hosts: Generally, 1 host per 70 seats during peak hours
  • Bussers: 1 busser for every 2-3 servers
  • Bartenders: 1 bartender per 50 guests in bars, or 1 per 5-6 tables in restaurants with significant bar service

Back-of-House Staffing Needs

Chef and Line Cook Requirements

Your kitchen staff is the backbone of your restaurant:

  • Executive Chef: 1 per kitchen, overseeing operations
  • Sous Chef: 1 per shift, assisting the executive chef
  • Line Cooks: 1 per station (grill, sauté, fry, etc.).

Support Roles

Don't underestimate the importance of support staff:

  • Dishwashers: 1 per 70 guests during peak hours
  • Prep Cooks: 1 per 50-75 meals served

Management and Supervisory Roles

Ensuring Adequate Oversight

Management presence is crucial during peak times:

  • General Manager: Always present during peak hours
  • Assistant Restaurant Managers or Shift Lead: 1 per shift, more for larger establishments

By carefully determining your staffing ratios across all areas of your restaurant, you can create a well-oiled machine that delivers excellent service, maintains quality, and maximizes profitability. It's about finding the right balance – enough staff to provide great service, but not so many that labor costs eat into your profits.

Creating a staffing schedule.

Creating a Staffing Schedule

Developing a Flexible Schedule

Rotating Shifts to Avoid Burnout

Employee burnout can lead to decreased productivity and higher turnover. To combat this:

  • Alternate staff between high-stress and low-stress shifts
  • Vary shift start times to distribute popular and unpopular time slots fairly
  • Implement a "2 days on, 2 days off" system when possible

Coverage for Breaks and Absences

Ensure your schedule accounts for:

  • Mandatory Break Times: Schedule overlap to cover meal breaks
  • On-Call Staff: Have 1-2 restaurant employees on standby for each shift
  • Cross-Training: Enable staff to cover multiple positions when needed

Properly managed breaks can increase productivity by up to 15%, according to research published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

Using Scheduling Software: 5-Out Sales Forecasting

5-Out is an all-in-one platform that goes beyond traditional scheduling software. Here's why it's recommended:

  • Integrates seamlessly with POS, inventory, and labor management systems
  • Provides accurate sales forecasting to inform staffing decisions
  • Offers a built-in staff scheduling feature on the same platform
  • Enables easy team communication through the app
  • Gives data-driven staffing suggestions based on sales forecasts

Key benefits of using 5-Out:

  • Streamlines operations by consolidating multiple functions in one platform
  • Improves scheduling accuracy with AI-powered sales predictions
  • Reduces labor costs by optimizing staff levels based on forecasted demand
  • Enhances team coordination through integrated communication tools
  • Offers a user-friendly interface accessible via mobile devices

By using 5-Out, you can create more efficient schedules, reduce labor costs, and improve overall restaurant operations. The platform's combination of accurate forecasting and scheduling tools makes it a valuable asset for restaurants looking to optimize their staffing processes.

Communicating with Staff

Clear Schedule Communication

Effective schedule communication is crucial:

  • Post schedules at least two weeks in advance
  • Use multiple communication channels (e.g., physical postings, emails, and mobile apps)
  • Clearly define shift responsibilities and expectations

Accommodating Staff Requests

Balance business needs with staff preferences:

  • Implement a formal system for time-off requests
  • Allow staff to indicate shift preferences
  • Be transparent about how requests are prioritized

Creating an effective staffing schedule is a delicate balance between meeting your restaurant's needs and accommodating your staff. By developing a flexible schedule, utilizing modern scheduling tools, and maintaining clear communication with your team, you can create a work environment that promotes both productivity and employee satisfaction. Remember, a well-managed schedule is the foundation of smooth restaurant operations and can significantly impact your bottom line.

Using 5-Out sales forecasting app for restaurant staffing.


Effective restaurant staffing during peak hours is essential for success in the competitive restaurant industry. By analyzing historical data, utilizing sales forecasting, and determining optimal staffing ratios, you can transform your approach from guesswork to a data-driven strategy.

Advanced technology like 5-Out has revolutionized this process. Integrating sales forecasting, scheduling, and team communication in one platform, offers a comprehensive solution to the complex challenge of restaurant staffing. With its ability to predict sales up to 35 days in advance with high accuracy, 5-Out empowers you to make informed staffing decisions that directly impact your bottom line.

Remember, effective staffing isn't just about numbers—it's about creating an environment that promotes efficiency, customer satisfaction, and employee well-being. By implementing these strategies and leveraging tools like 5-Out, you can ensure your restaurant is well-prepared for peak hours, leading to improved service, increased profitability, and a more resilient business.

Take action now to refine your staffing approach. Your customers, employees, and bottom line will benefit from a well-oiled operation that can handle any rush with ease and efficiency.

Request a demo to experience the power of accurate forecasting and streamlined scheduling with 5-Out!

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