That may be a strange question … but it is an interesting way to think about your business potential. To illustrate, consider a 120-seat restaurant serving lunch and dinner from 11:00am until 10:00pm. On an average day, they do 200 lunches and 200 dinners. That sounds pretty good — and it is certainly respectable — but let’s look at it again from the aspect of occupancy. What percentage of time is there a guest actually sitting in each chair in the dining room?
If the average lunch patron takes 45 minutes to eat, those 200 lunches represent 150 seat-hours (200 meals at ? hour each) … and if the typical evening meal lasts 90 minutes, the 200 dinners equate to 300 seat-hours (200 meals at 1? hours each) … so the restaurant has a total of 500 seat-hours of demand.
The maximum available occupancy is 1320 seat-hours (120 seats x 11 hours a day of operation), so their occupancy is just under 38%. The restaurant, although comfortably busy, is only using a little better than a third of its possible capacity.
I do not mean to suggest that 400 meals a day is some sort of failure in a 120-seat restaurant, but I think many operators would look at that pace of lunch and dinner business and feel they are doing about as good as they can. I mean, nearly two turns at lunch is really quite decent! But by tracking occupancy, you will discover how much room there is for improvement … and that knowledge should start your marketing wheels turning to find a way to fill those empty seats. In the weeks ahead, I will explore some different ideas on what you can do to increase your occupancy.
From the restaurant doctor Bill Marvin www.restaurantdoctor.com