How to Reduce Labor Costs in a Restaurant

December 27, 2023

Learn how to reduce labor costs in a restaurant and boost your profitability! 

As a restaurant manager or business owner, you understand that labor costs are one of the most significant expenses in the industry. Balancing quality service with cost efficiency is a delicate task, but with the right strategies and insights, you can achieve it successfully. 

In this blog post, we'll delve into various proven methods and techniques to help you streamline your restaurant's labor costs, ultimately leading to improved financial health and sustainable growth.

How to Reduce Labor Costs in a Restaurant

Reducing labor costs in your restaurant doesn't mean compromising quality or staff morale. Instead, it's about smart management and utilizing resources efficiently. Let's explore some of the best strategies to achieve this.

1. Track Labor Costs and Monitor Reports Regularly

To effectively reduce labor costs, you need to start by understanding where your expenses are going. Your labor costs consist of wages, benefits, and related expenses such as payroll taxes. 

Implement a robust system to track these costs regularly. Utilize reports from your point-of-sale (POS) system or restaurant management software to gain insights into labor expenditure. By identifying cost patterns, you can make informed decisions to optimize your labor budget.

2. Adjust Staff Scheduling According to Sales Forecast

One of the key ways to reduce labor costs is by aligning your staff schedules with your restaurant's actual needs. Use sales forecasting techniques to estimate the level of business you expect during different shifts and days.

Schedule staff accordingly, ensuring you have the right number of employees on hand to handle customer demand effectively. However, don't forget to continuously adjust your schedules based on real-time sales data to avoid overstaffing during slow periods.

3. Reassess Staffing Needs Regularly

The restaurant business is dynamic, and your staffing needs can change with time. Therefore, it's crucial to reassess your staffing requirements periodically. Analyze historical data, customer trends, and seasonal variations to determine when you need to increase or decrease your workforce. This proactive approach will help you maintain optimal staffing levels and reduce unnecessary labor expenses.

4. Minimize Overtime and Monitor It Effectively

Overtime can quickly inflate labor costs. While occasional overtime may be necessary, monitoring and minimizing it is essential. Create policies and procedures to control overtime hours and review them with your staff. Use your scheduling software to identify potential overtime situations in advance, allowing you to adjust schedules as needed to prevent excessive labor costs.

5. Hire Part-Time Assistance and Outsource as Needed

To reduce labor costs, consider hiring part-time employees for positions that don't require full-time commitment. Part-time staff can provide flexibility in scheduling, especially during peak hours. Moreover, outsourcing certain services, such as janitorial or delivery services, can help you save on labor expenses while ensuring that essential tasks are still completed efficiently.

6. Minimize Employee Turnover and Attrition

High turnover rates can significantly impact labor costs due to recruitment, training, and onboarding expenses. Invest in employee retention strategies by creating a positive work environment, offering competitive wages, and providing opportunities for growth and development. Reducing turnover saves money and contributes to a more skilled and experienced workforce.

7. Enhance Efficiency with Restaurant Technology

In today's digital age, technology is your ally in the battle to reduce labor costs. Investing in the right technological tools can not only improve your restaurant's overall efficiency but also minimize labor-related expenses. Let's dive into some key technologies that can make a significant difference:

Handheld POS

Handheld Point-of-Sale (POS) systems have become indispensable tools in restaurants. These portable devices allow your staff to take orders and process payments directly at the table. This speeds up the service and reduces the need for multiple trips to the POS terminal.

By implementing handheld POS devices, you can increase the efficiency of your waitstaff, allowing them to serve more tables and customers in less time. This, in turn, reduces the number of servers required during peak hours, resulting in significant labor cost savings.

Mobile POS Solutions

Incorporating mobile POS solutions, such as Tablet Ordering and iPad POS systems, can further optimize your restaurant's operations. These portable devices enable tableside ordering and payment processing, eliminating the need for your staff to rush back to the main terminal.

Tablet Ordering and iPad POS systems provide a seamless dining experience for your customers and increase table turnover, allowing you to serve more guests with the same staff.

QR Code Ordering

QR Code Ordering, in the form of digital menus, has gained immense popularity, especially in the post-pandemic world. Customers can simply scan a QR code with their smartphones to access the restaurant's menu, place orders, and make contactless payments.

Implementing QR Code Ordering eliminates the need for physical menus and traditional order-taking processes. This reduces labor costs associated with printing and maintaining physical menus and streamlines the order-taking process, allowing your staff to focus on delivering exceptional service.

Self Ordering Kiosks

Self-ordering kiosks are becoming increasingly common in fast-food and quick-service restaurants, but their benefits extend to various dining establishments. These kiosks allow customers to place their orders and customize their meals without the assistance of a server.

By incorporating self-ordering kiosks into your restaurant, you can reduce the number of front-of-house staff needed to take orders, especially during peak hours. This technology-driven solution saves labor costs and enhances the overall customer experience through quicker service.

Online Ordering

Online ordering systems have become a staple for many restaurants, offering customers the convenience of ordering food for delivery or pickup through a website or mobile app. Implementing an efficient online ordering system can significantly reduce the workload on your in-house staff.

By encouraging online orders, you can optimize your labor schedule by allocating staff resources more effectively. During peak hours, you can allocate more employees to fulfill online orders, ensuring a smooth and efficient process while providing excellent in-house dining service.

Waitlist App

Managing restaurant waitlists has never been easier with the advent of waitlist apps. These apps allow your customers to join the waitlist remotely and receive real-time updates on their table status.

Waitlist apps not only enhance the guest experience but also help you manage the front-of-house operations more efficiently. By reducing the time your host or hostess spends managing the waitlist manually, you can optimize their role and allocate them to other tasks, leading to labor cost savings.

Restaurant Reservation Systems

Reservation systems are essential for fine dining establishments and restaurants that experience high demand. Technology-driven reservation platforms can automate the booking process, manage reservations efficiently, and reduce no-shows.

By implementing a reservation system, you can optimize your front-of-house staffing levels based on reservation forecasts. This ensures that you have the right number of servers and support staff on hand, preventing overstaffing during slow periods and understaffing during busy times.

Restaurant Analytics and Reporting

Advanced reporting and analytics tools can provide valuable insights into your restaurant's operations. These tools can help you identify trends, peak hours, and areas where you can optimize staffing.

By regularly reviewing data and analytics, you can make data-driven decisions about when and where to allocate your labor resources. This proactive approach can lead to more efficient staffing and reduced labor costs.

Order & Table Management

Efficient order and table management systems are critical for ensuring a smooth flow of operations in your restaurant. Technology solutions that help manage orders, track table status, and coordinate kitchen activity can be invaluable.

Streamlining order and table management can reduce wait times, minimize errors, and optimize your kitchen staff's workload. This results in improved efficiency and reduced labor costs, as your kitchen staff can handle orders more effectively.

Multi-location Management

If you operate multiple restaurant locations, technology can play a significant role in centralizing management and reducing labor costs across the board. Multi-location management systems provide a centralized platform for overseeing various aspects of your restaurants.

These systems allow you to monitor inventory, staffing, and performance metrics for all your locations from a single dashboard. By having a comprehensive view of your operations, you can identify cost-saving opportunities, standardize processes, and allocate resources more effectively.

8. Optimize Operations with New Steps of Service

Review your restaurant's current processes and service steps to identify areas where you can optimize efficiency. For example, consider implementing a self-ordering kiosk system or a mobile ordering app to reduce the need for front-of-house staff during peak hours. By reimagining your service flow, you can allocate labor resources more effectively.

9. Invest in Automation, Equipment, and Design to Enhance Productivity

Automation, modern equipment, and restaurant design can significantly impact labor efficiency. Automate repetitive tasks in the kitchen, such as food prep or dishwashing, with the latest equipment and technology. Additionally, design your restaurant layout for optimal workflow, reducing the distance staff need to travel to complete tasks. These investments can lead to significant long-term labor cost savings.

10. Develop an Appropriate Salary Structure

Creating a balanced salary structure is crucial for managing labor costs. Ensure that your compensation packages align with industry standards while keeping your budget in check. Consider offering performance-based incentives to motivate your staff and reward excellence without increasing fixed labor costs.

11. Invest Wisely in Hiring and Recruitment

Hiring the right employees from the start can save you time and money in the long run. Invest in thorough recruitment processes to find candidates who fit your restaurant's culture and have the skills necessary for the job. This reduces turnover and lowers training and onboarding expenses.

12. Evaluate and Adjust Operating Hours for Cost Efficiency

Carefully evaluate your restaurant's operating hours to determine if adjustments can be made to reduce labor costs. For example, consider opening later on weekdays if early mornings are consistently slow. Additionally, explore the possibility of closing the restaurant for a few hours during non-peak times to optimize staffing levels.

13. Cross-Train Staff to Enhance Flexibility and Skill Sets

Cross-training your staff is an effective way to ensure flexibility in scheduling. When employees can perform multiple roles, you have more options for staffing shifts. This reduces the need to hire additional staff and minimizes labor costs. Provide regular training opportunities to enhance their skills.

14. Strive for Best-in-Class Employer Status

Being known as a top employer in the restaurant industry can help you attract and retain the best talent. Offer competitive wages and benefits, foster a positive work culture, and provide opportunities for career growth. Employees who feel valued and appreciated are more likely to stay with your restaurant, reducing turnover costs.

15. Focus on Keeping Your Team Happy and Motivated

Happy employees are more productive and less likely to leave their jobs. Implement strategies to boost employee morale, such as recognizing and rewarding outstanding performance, conducting team-building activities, and maintaining open communication channels. A motivated team is an asset that can help you reduce labor costs in the long run.

16. Reduce Time-Consuming Side Work

Effective time management is essential in the restaurant industry. Monitor your staff's time on various tasks, especially side work, which can be time-consuming. Streamline processes and encourage your team to work efficiently, ensuring that they focus on tasks that directly contribute to customer satisfaction.

17. Implement Precise Timekeeping to Avoid Time Theft and Payroll Errors

One crucial aspect of time management is accurate clocking in and out by your staff. Time theft, which occurs when employees clock in for each other or exaggerate their hours, can inflate your labor costs significantly. Implement a reliable time-tracking system, such as biometric scanners or digital time clocks, to ensure that employees accurately record their work hours. Regularly review and cross-check these records to prevent inaccuracies in payroll, saving your restaurant both time and money.

18. Prep Smarter to Save Time and Resources

Efficiently managing food prep can reduce labor costs associated with kitchen staff. Analyze sales data to anticipate demand accurately and adjust your prep levels accordingly. Minimize food waste by implementing portion control measures and utilizing leftover ingredients creatively.

19. Complying with Restaurant Labor Laws

Compliance with labor laws is non-negotiable. Familiarize yourself with federal, state, and local labor regulations to avoid costly penalties and lawsuits. Ensure that you adhere to minimum wage, overtime, and break-time requirements. Staying informed and compliant will safeguard your restaurant's reputation and financial stability.


Reducing labor costs in your restaurant is a multifaceted endeavor that requires a combination of strategic planning, efficient operations, and employee management. By implementing the strategies outlined in this guide, you can take control of your labor costs while maintaining the high-quality service that your customers expect. Remember that continuous monitoring and adjustment are key to ongoing success in managing your restaurant's labor expenses.

Ready to take control of your restaurant's labor costs? Discover how Chowbus POS can help you streamline operations and boost profitability. Book a free demo or consultation today to learn more about our cutting-edge restaurant management solutions.

Frequently Asked Questions About How to Reduce Labor Costs in a Restaurant

Explore answers to common queries on reducing restaurant labor costs, including strategies to break down labor expenses, ideal labor cost percentages, and the factors contributing to low labor costs.

How Do You Break Down Labor Costs?

To break down labor costs effectively, follow these steps:

  1. Identify Direct Labor Costs: Calculate the wages for employees directly involved in production or service delivery.

  2. Include Indirect Labor Costs: Account for support staff wages like supervisors and maintenance.

  3. Factor in Overtime and Benefits: Add overtime costs, health insurance, retirement plans, and other employee benefits.

  4. Calculate Labor Burden: Include additional expenses like payroll taxes and workers' compensation.

  5. Monitor and Update Regularly: Regularly review and adjust these costs to reflect changes in wages, benefits, and workforce size.

What is a Good Labor Cost Percentage?

A good labor cost percentage generally falls within 30-35% of a restaurant's total revenue. This range is considered optimal for balancing staff compensation and overall profitability.

What Causes Low Labour Costs?

Low labor costs often stem from a combination of factors:

  • Economic Dynamics: High unemployment and a large workforce in certain areas lead to reduced wages, as the supply of labor exceeds demand.

  • Living Expenses: In regions where it's cheaper to live, wages are generally lower because workers need less money for basic living expenses.

  • Regulatory Environment: Countries with more relaxed labor laws and regulations tend to have lower labor costs due to minimal legal requirements for wages and employee benefits.

  • Skill and Education Requirements: Roles that demand less skill or education typically offer lower pay, which in turn lowers overall labor costs in those job sectors.

  • Global Market Influences: The practice of outsourcing work to countries with lower wage norms can result in decreased labor costs.

  • Policy Impact: Government policies that limit wage increases or discourage union formation can also contribute to keeping labor costs low.

These factors collectively influence labor costs, leading to variations across regions and industries.

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