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CAKE is dedicated to improving restaurant operations at every level. So we wanted to know – is there such thing as a “Golden Hour” for restaurants? To find out, we analyzed data from more than 2,000 independent restaurants using the CAKE platform to find out what times of day are most profitable.

As it turns out, restaurants can easily generate 2 to 3 times as much revenue per hour during their busiest peak times, so focusing on these Golden Hours is crucial to a restaurant’s success.

What’s more, when you definitively understand your busiest hours, you can prepare by having enough staff, ingredients and other resources on hand. Whether you decide to prepare extra dishes, premix drink specials or develop other preemptive habits, anticipating a surge can help you stage everything to make your Golden Hour a success.

Golden Evenings

From 6 to 9 p.m., restaurants make double or triple the amount of revenue they generate at other times of day. It’s the dinner rush, and it’s the best time for restaurants to make the most revenue. It’s also the most important time to be prepared.

For example, 6 to 9 is a smart time frame to bring on a second bartender, or open up extra seating for larger parties. Make sure you have enough employees on hand to avoid common dangers of understaffing, like employee burnout, missed orders, low staff morale and poor service. Restaurant technology that supports streamlined service is crucial for this time of the shift. Your staff could benefit from tableside ordering solutions to process payments and orders at the table, saving time and turning more tables. 

A case study we found was the impact of tableside ordering showed a revenue increase of more than 50% during an evening rush.

Staff training, meetings, and back office business should ideally occur before your evening Golden Hours, so all of your employees can pitch in during the rush. What’s more, our data showed that during weekdays, average revenue on Thursdays is nearly double what it is on Mondays, so day of the week matters just as much as time of day as you consider staggering your staff. Scheduling is an art, not a science!

Afternoons Take the Silver

The second-most profitable time of day is in the afternoon, between noon and 2 p.m. Americans go out to lunch an average of twice a week, and their spending habits don’t always correlate with income.

A Visa survey found that Americans will spend about $53 a week on lunch which averages $2,764 each year. In some cases, that number can go as high as $9,000 a year. 

As many workers returned to work the post-pandemic era, they were met higher costs for lunch. The high increase in prices can be attributed to anything from supply issues to labor shortages. From March 1, 2020 to March 1, 2022 the average price of a wrap went up 13%. 

Afternoon Golden Hours are a great time to offer specials that appeal to frugal businessmen and women looking for a break from the office. Loyalty programs are a smart way to turn one-time guests into daily diners. Depending on the businesses located near your restaurant, you might increase revenue by offering every 10th coffee for free, or inviting customers to return on the same day for a discounted evening meal.

On the flip side, our data showed the biggest single drop in sales after 1 pm, with average revenue continuing to drop every hour until the dinner rush. If your off-peak hours aren’t profitable, you could consider launching specials during those hours to increase traffic. Alternatively, you might consider closing for a few hours to lower operating costs and re-opening before the evening Golden Hour guests start pouring in.

Staying Gold

Track profits as you go forward and you’ll continue to earn more and more. Technology can help you monitor all of your data so that you can continue to focus on the hours that work best for your restaurant. Focusing your efforts on your personal “Golden Hours” ensures more reliable revenue throughout the week.

CAKE’s restaurant management tools can help your restaurant run effectively and keep labor costs down. Gather clock-in and clock-out data into a report and you’ll be able to easily figure out potential staffing issues such as overtime and adjust accordingly.

Get real-time metrics from CAKE’s data reporting solutions to see what’s selling and what’s not, or managing tables during peak times. 

As an owner, you want to keep that Golden Hour as golden every day of the week. The importance of the time, your efficiency, and how you manage your business, can set the tone for your restaurant performance for the week.

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