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Thursday, February 16, 2006

Forecasting 502 - Complex Operations

The way I like to approach a forecast of covers in a multi-outlet operation is somewhat different than the revenue center approach. As always, I spend the most forecasting time on busy, high opportunity days. These busy days are challenging from a staffing, prep and equipment perspective. Let's start by defining the absolute maximum capacity.

We'll go back to our data archive. This time we are looking for the top 10% days of total sales in the previous year. Locate these 36 days and get the sales totals by outlet for each. If your operation has 5 restaurants, room service, several banquet rooms and off premise activity, you would have 8 sales figures. The data would contain statistics on date, dow, major event(s), total sales and a column for each of the revenue centers.

Look for trends. Were your busiest days Mother's Day and Valentine's Day? Were they Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day? Were they some of your best Friday's? Maybe you had some great Sunday Brunch days. Do these occur during weeks with a Monday holiday? Find the busiest days and see why the volume soared.

Build your forecast for the current year using these numbers as a starting point. If you have rooms to sell, it's likely you we're fully booked on most of these 36 days. Add the rooms occupied percentage to the analysis. You can find other days not in the top 10% of sales which had similar occupancy numbers. Were there any of these high occupancy days NOT in the top 25%? What went wrong? Did you have to fill rooms with less profitable customers?

Now try to put some color in this black and white photo. Who are these customers filling the dining areas on the busiest days? Try to profile them with as many attributes as possible. Continue the profiling exercise with the days when you had a big group and disappointing sales. Pay particular attention to convention and seminar groups.

The final field in the table is the food cost percentage achieved during the week* associated with each of these days. Probably, your best weeks were anchored by a great sales day.

The purpose of this exercise is to get an edge on your local competition. Just looking at room counts and BEOs isn't enough. Customer profiles need to be closely watched. You'll avoid some over staffed days with too much prepared food and too little sales.

* Note: If you do not calculate food cost percentages weekly, use purchases divided by sales.

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