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Restaurant Reports vs Restaurant Dashboards

Restaurant Reports vs Restaurant Dashboards

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Jenny Day

Restaurants collect an enormous amount of data. But that data is useless unless it can be transformed into usable information. The two prominent methods of converting data into actionable are reports and dashboards. While these two methods have similar features, they are not the same thing. Read on to find out when you should use reports and when you should use dashboards; and ultimately, why you need both.

What is a restaurant report?

A report is a comprehensive document with in-depth data about a restaurant’s operations as a whole or on a particular segment for a particular time period. Reports typically contain text, charts, graphs, and tables that drill down on the organization’s growth and progress. They can span several pages and typically include information from a past period, such as the month, quarter, or year.

Examples of restaurant reports:

  • Financial reports: A restaurant might use a financial report to summarize monthly revenue, expenses, and profit margins. This report includes detailed breakdowns of income sources, cost categories, and trends over time.
  • Actual vs. theoretical analysis (AvT) report: The AvT report includes metrics such as actual usage, theoretical usage, waste, variance, unexplained variance, efficiency percentage, as well as all of these details as a percentage of restaurant sales.
  • Menu analysis report: An analysis of menu item sales, including profitability, customer preferences, and the impact of changes to the menu. This report is vital for menu engineering.

What is a restaurant dashboard?

Dashboards represent the most important metrics by using data visualization. The name “dashboard” derives itself from the name of the instrument panel that lives behind your car’s steering wheel. Almost always, metrics, KPIs, changes, trends, etc. can be updated in real-time and displayed on a single screen.

Examples of restaurant dashboards:

  • Sales dashboard: A restaurant can use a sales dashboard to track real-time or daily sales figures, monitor table occupancy, and see which menu items are selling well.
  • Inventory management dashboard: This dashboard displays current stock levels, alerts staff when supplies are running low, and helps optimize purchasing decisions.
  • Intraday dashboard: Store-level managers can see when sales are slowing down or picking up unexpectedly and adjust staffing on the fly to reduce labor costs as opposed to waiting for the month-end report.


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Should I use restaurant reports or restaurant dashboards?

Both reports and dashboards are powerful tools used to analyze data and make informed decisions. While both tools serve a similar purpose, there are some key differences between them. When deciding whether to use a report or a dashboard, it’s important to consider the level of detail you need, the frequency of the data, and the intended audience for the data.

Here are some of the main questions to answer to determine if you need a report or a dashboard:

What is the data source? Reports can be generated from a single object or across multiple objects, while dashboards are typically created from a single report or a combination of reports.

What level of detail is needed? Reports can provide granular details about individual records, while dashboards provide a high-level overview of data across multiple records.

What kind of visual presentation is most beneficial? Most often, reports are presented in a table format, while dashboards are often on a single screen and provide visual elements such as charts, graphs, and gauges to display data.

What kind of interactivity works best? Reports are often data sets from a set period whereas dashboards allow you to see changes as they happen. Unlike reports, dashboards can also be set to alert users to new updates or when a certain metric reaches a stipulated threshold.


Dashboards are great for an everyday overview of what’s going on in the business thanks to their interactivity and timeliness of real-time updated data, while reports are best for a more in-depth look at a particular dataset, which can provide deeper insight than an at-a-glance summary. Combining the use of both reports and dashboards is the best way to create a full picture of the health of the business.

Want to learn to create powerful dashboards that will transform your business? Check out this blog: Metric Monday: How to Build Winning Restaurant Dashboards

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