There are so many figures in the Point of Sale system, bookkeeping program, customer counts and marketing feedback – but rarely all together in one place. Here’s how to put together a simple weekly set of the most important figures so you know what’s working, and what to fix. When you measure it, you can manage it!

Create a Standard One-Page Format. You’ll find an example ready to use in the Profitable Hospitality Downloads. Once people are familiar with the layout, they will know exactly what to look for and their ‘financial education’ is underway. Test what figures have a real influence on improving results.

Start with the 4 Major Numbers. You could find dozens, but the four key ones will give you most of what you need: Food Cost %, Beverage Cost %, Employee Cost % and Sales per Head. The last one implies that you count the customers, carefully. This can be done with more careful use of your POS – make it compulsory to enter the number of customers when an order is put through. Without customer numbers you will be working on guesses about customer spending.

Design It for the ‘Non-Numbers People’. Many hospitality people find spreadsheets confusing, so this page has to be designed to hold their attention and show exactly what’s going on. They’ll get used to it and educating them is part of what will make this work. A tip: avoid pie charts and graphs – they will just confuse.

Make the Bookkeeping System Work for You. Sometimes your accounting system is set up at the convenience of the bookkeeper, and some bills only come monthly. But unless you work out a way to check the 4 Major Numbers every week, time drifts by and things go off track. Bookkeeping has to be at your service, not the other way around. When you get your bookkeeping online (with a system like Xero, MYOB or Quicken), you have the bookkeeping figures available anytime 24/7, including bank balances.

Use Dollars, Percentages and Comparison Numbers. Many staff are a bit vague on how percentages work. ‘Comparison numbers’ make explanations much easier, and can add more impact eg cents in the dollar, cost per day or cost per customer. So check Wage Cost per Customer (this can be a shock), Proportion of People Having Dessert (only 1 in 7 – really?) and Linen Costs per Shift… and lots more. Not all of these will be on your Dashboard, but they’re very useful to check.

Comparison Trends are Essential. This week compared with last week. This week compared to the same time last year, or one month compared with another month – ‘the trend is your friend’. You often need to pull these together from old reports, but it’s well worth the effort.

Put the Dashboard Page Together Manually. Really, with all this high-powered software and the 500 reports available on the POS? Yes – you want an easy-to-read page that everyone understands – it’s rare (and complicated) to get a POS or accounting system that will pull these things together exactly as you want. Assembling the final figures also makes you much more conscious of them. Just like it’s important for the chef to personally update supply costs in their recipe costing.

Add an Extra Number of the Week. Occasionally, add one more number to keep everyone on their toes eg linen costs this month compared to last year, power cost for the week, number of likes and comments on the Facebook Page, number of side-salads sold compared to number of pastas sold (should be at least one third). You could even ask different people to choose their ‘number of the week’. Once again, comparison with a previous period makes the impact much stronger.

Always Highlight Some Success Figures. This exercise is not just to find fault. If costs are down or per-head coffee sales are up, let’s celebrate! You’ll often find these by digging deeper into the POS or expense numbers.

Garbage-In, Garbage-Out. Inaccurate figures or guesstimates are an expensive waste of time. A prime example is if the ‘Open’ key is used on the POS for sales that people can’t find a button for. If you need help to do all this number work, accounting students at local colleges are skillful and keen for work. They love numbers and will pull all the figures together for you on Monday for the Tuesday team meeting. They can also do the fiddly auditing you should be doing – returns credited on monthly statement, till reconciliation and checking for server order errors.