• Kelsey Jobalia

Understanding Your Options: Restaurant Sales Forecasting vs Predictive Prep Schedules

There’s no denying it: technology is taking control of the restaurant industry. New tech is popping up every day to facilitate each step of the – process. Whether you’re an owner, manager, or chef, you need to understand your options and how to utilize them.



Restaurant forecasting is broken down into two categories; Restaurant Sales Forecasting and Predictive Prep Schedules. Both are applications of machine learning in restaurant industry. Also, both have the capability of taking the guesswork out of running a restaurant, making your jobs easier and increasing profits and productivity.




When looking at Restaurant forecasting and predictive analytics for restaurants, one common confusion is the difference between “Sales Forecasting” and “Predictive Prep Schedules”. While on the surface they serve the same overall purpose of telling you want to expect in the future, they’re fundamentally built for two completely different objectives. We’ll dig into the differences of the two in greater detail, but in essence, Sales Forecasting provides a general expectation of the future and is often most helpful with labor scheduling. Whereas, Predictive Prep Schedules help reduce labor and the restaurant’s COGS by providing specific guidance for the day.


What is Sales Forecasting?


Sales forecasting is a method of using general sales patterns to predict what overall sales might look like in the future. As explained in this article by Toast , “A restaurant sales forecast enables you to know when’s the best time to open a new location, what inventory to order for the next month, and how many employees should be scheduled for a shift in two weeks.” Most restaurants do something like this manually, however, for more accurate results there are companies that can do this for you.


This is where Machine Learning comes in. Machine learning is the process of teaching a computer to make accurate predictions based on data and statistical models. Restaurant tech and AI companies like 5-Out and Lineup.ai are using machine learning and AI to create more accurate sales forecasts by using data your restaurant provides.


These forecasts can primarily be used to predict staffing needs and weekly orders. From these reports you may be able to extrapolate backwards how to best use your time and money in running your restaurant.


What are Predictive Prep Schedules?


Much like Restaurant Sales Forecasting, Predictive Prep Schedules are also an application of machine learning in the restaurant industry. However, unlike Sales Forecasting, Predictive Prep Schedules take these methods one step farther. Instead of looking at overall sales trends, Predictive Prep Schedules take PMIX, available menu items, LTO’s, and the unique needs of the restaurant into consideration. Centering its forecasting around food instead of sales allows far more accurate and specific predictions. It then automatically translates these predictions into the individual demands for the restaurant and provides them with a simple report on what the restaurant needs for the day.


By taking the manual process of determining what to prep each day, restaurants save on labor, minimize the amount of food that is wasted, AND reduce how often menu items are 86’d in the middle of service. ClearCOGS is built around food prep and easily automates this process. Similar outcomes can be achieved using sales forecasting technology as well, however the method is pretty involved.For example, 5OUT explains that lowering food waste can be done with sales forecasting but it involves quite a bit of analysis and insight from the kitchen management team.


Which Technology is Best for Your Restaurant?


Clearly both of these technologies could be extremely useful to any restaurant, but how can you decide which one is right for you? In order to decide you must evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, and goals of your restaurant.


If your primary concern right now is accurate staffing, then sales forecasting would be the right method for you. It can give you accurate predictions of how busy your restaurant will be on any given day, and you can staff accordingly, cutting down on excess cost of labor and ensuring that your tip-receiving employees are making enough as well.


If you want to focus on kitchen automating daily calculations and cutting down food waste, Predictive Prep Schedules will be an asset to your business. You’ll receive detailed prep sheets, giving you all the information you need. It requires no extra analysis or extrapolation; all the work is done for you.



If you’re curious about how predictive food prep could benefit your restaurant, schedule a free demo of ClearCOGS technology, or request further information.