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Measuring the ROI of ops excellence in the restaurant industry

Understanding the Value of Ops Excellence in Restaurants



This is the first part in a five-part series about understanding the ROI of ops excellence.

Operational (ops) excellence is what separates great restaurant brands from average ones. It's what helps them grow and succeed. 

How do you achieve ops excellence? It's pretty simple. It's driven directly by the degree to which your team is able to: 

  • Ensure profitability in every location
  • Consistently deliver great customer experiences

Accomplishing these two all-important operational imperatives might seem straightforward enough–increase the volume of sales, decrease overhead expenses, and delight customers.

But between operating on slim profit margins (~10%), dealing with unpredictable external cost factors, and grappling with higher-than-ever customer expectations, achieving ops excellence across stores has always been difficult and is even more challenging now given the speed of change in this increasingly complex industry.

To help restaurant leaders in their pursuit of ops excellence, we first introduced a framework with strategies and best practices and then also demonstrated what ops excellence in action looks like with real examples from top operators.

Now, as your organization begins to plan for 2024, we'll explain the value of ops excellence, show you where to measure specific outcomes, and how you'll drive significant value back into the business.

Making the case for ops excellence

Why Now? If you haven't already done so, you're probably about to participate in 2024 strategy and budgeting discussions with your leadership team.

It's time to make decisions about where investments will be made to help the organization grow and succeed next year, and beyond. 

As you compete for limited resources, money, and time, you've got to ensure that the main drivers of ops excellence get priority in the coming year.

We're here to help you build your business case and arm you with clear information and insight to drive those discussions. 

How do you make the case to get approval for investment in initiatives that enable ops excellence? You've got to demonstrate the value that you can drive by setting yourself up for ops excellence.

Operators like you are focusing on their two biggest growth levers by placing their bets on initiatives that deliver better profitability and customer experiences in every location, specifically in these four areas:


crunchtime - inventory_@2x  Controlling food costs and optimizing inventory processes 

 crunchtime - labor_@2x Staffing stores to ensure optimal coverage and compliance

crunchtime - opsx_@2xCompleting work correctly and on time, efficiently

crunchtime - talentdev_@2x  Getting employees shift-ready faster and developing skills 


Now that we've identified the four areas your organization should be thinking about and investing in, let's justify the investment. 

Measuring the return of investing in ops excellence

Let's look at the ways that the value of ops excellence can be proven and where outcomes can be measured in each focus area.

crunchtime - inventory_@2xThe ROI of controlling food costs and optimizing inventory processes

Start tracking these key areas to see how better inventory management impacts profitability: 

Focus Area 

Metrics to Track

Food Costs
Close the gap between your actual vs. theoretical food costs

Actual vs. Theoretical variance (AvT)

Food cost percentage 

Inventory Counts
Always know what inventory is on-hand, from ordering to depletion

Real-time stock levels, including depleted items from sales throughout the day

Amount of employee time spent on inventory by store employees and above-store teams each month

Smart Ordering
Only order the amounts needed


Sales forecast

Amount of employee time spent on ordering and purchasing

Identifying Waste 
Track and find sources of waste

Waste from:

  • Spoilage
  • Preparation errors
  • Theft

Reconciling Invoices
Ensure all inventory amounts are accurate when receiving shipments

The cost of goods ordered vs. the amount invoiced

Employee time spent on invoicing and reconciliation 


crunchtime - labor_@2xThe ROI of staffing stores to ensure optimal coverage and compliance

Start tracking these key areas to see how better scheduling and labor management impact profitability, improve employee engagement and retention, and grow the business: 


Focus Area 

Metrics to Track

Schedule Creation
Automate and optimize the scheduling process 

Time spent:

  • Creating schedules 
  • Distributing schedules 
  • Providing final approval of time off and scheduling shift requests

Optimal Staffing 
Balancing labor hours based on historical forecast data  

Guest satisfaction scores

Amount of:

  • Overstaffed/understaffed shifts 
  • No-call, no-show employees
  • Staff needed to meet demand and maintain profit targets 

Empowering Employees Requesting time off, picking up or swapping shifts

Employee satisfaction around scheduling flexibility 

Effort and time spent communicating over schedule changes and requests 

Ensuring Compliance
Staying compliant with payroll and labor laws across locations 

Unintended overtime occurrences

Frequency/cost of payroll violations 


crunchtime - opsx_@2xThe ROI of completing work correctly and on time, efficiently 

Start tracking these key areas to see how improving operations execution can positively impact customer experiences and your bottom line: 


Focus Area 

Metrics to Track

Efficiency across teams in stores, the field, and HQ

Time spent on manual processes

Time and cost of paperwork

Time to perform audits and to follow up and complete corrective actions 

Recurrence of corrective actions

Quality of Execution 
Completing standard operating procedures (SOPs) consistently 

Audit scores and brand standards

Health inspection scores

Foodborne illness outbreak costs

Online reputation scores

Customer satisfaction survey scores

Insight into metrics across all stores

Frequency and cost of repeat maintenance issues 

How often equipment temperatures in every location go out of range

Regional/store-level performance of critical procedures and initiatives


crunchtime - talentdev_@2xThe ROI of getting employees shift-ready faster and developing skills 

Start tracking these key areas to see how better training and development impact customer and employee experiences while reducing churn and costs:


Focus Area 

Metrics to Track

Staff Competence and Readiness
Accelerated learning and ongoing reinforcement 

Time needed for employees to be shift-ready, and to be cross-trained 

Retention rate and cost of churn 

Time to grade exams and quizzes

Guest satisfaction scores

Training assignment completion rate

Cost, Compliance, and Liability
Reduce potential issues by making training more accessible

Cost of travel and paper-based training and testing programs

Time spent tracking compliance training

Cost of OSHA fines

Lawsuit costs per incident

Worker's comp insurance rates

Understanding the value of ops excellence

As we continue this five-part series, we'll go deeper into each of the four focus areas.

We'll help you understand and confidently demonstrate why operations initiatives are worthwhile investments that pay for themselves in the value of the benefits for your business – reduced costs, improved efficiency/reduced errors, increased profit margins, and higher customer satisfaction – and ultimately secure investment to help your business scale to the next level of success. 

Since you'll likely be measured on your ability to succeed in these projects–potentially leading to promotion and career opportunities–you'll also see how advances in technology have allowed much quicker ROI (months, not years).

Stay tuned for the next part.

Can't wait for part 2? Check out The Restaurant Operator's Guide to Ops Excellence now.