Sales forecasting how-to

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How do I forecast sales for a new restaurant with no sales history or comparisons?



There are restaurateurs and restaurant-business professionals who can look at a space, estimate the square footage, envision how many seats it will have, what sort of check average and how many turns will be needed to be profitable. I don’t have that kind of head.

Even if someone can spout off what they forecast to be monthly or annual sales, good forecasting really is a conservative extrapolation of the smallest unit.

First, choose a manageable amount of time, such as 30 minutes. Given the car traffic or foot traffic, competition, and so on, how many guests do you think will come in during that time? And what do you think would be a reasonable check average, keeping in mind some guests may come in for a drink or dessert and others will go all out. Do this for three types of time periods—slow, such as between traditional meal times, steady, and slammed, such as Saturday nights or holidays, depending on the operation. Then fill in those chunks into weeks and months, being conscious of seasonality, and you’ll have a good start.

There are other tricks to help  gauge whether your numbers are realistic:

  • The sales of competitors
  • Rent as a percentage of total sales
  • Observing competitors and similar operations

In all, forecasting is an educated guess. Once you start to earn revenue, revise your forecasts based on real patterns and what you’re seeing on the ground.

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