In this post, we’ll dig more into what labour percentage should your restaurant run and discover how to calculate labour ratios to improve your cash flow.

For many young people, working at a restaurant can be the start of their careers, and those who remain in the field look forward to successful futures. That’s why, restaurant jobs range from entry-level waitresses to five-star chefs. 

But, when it comes to compensation for employees, how much is too much? And how do you know what levels of labour cost will lead to business profitability?

Stay tuned to know more!

What percentage should labour be in a restaurant?

The cost of labour is one of the most significant expenses for a company. In fact, about 30% of the revenue gets spent on labour in a typical restaurant. However, this varies from restaurant to restaurant. That’s why we have here the estimated percentages for labour costs to help you realize how much should be present in your restaurant.

BDO estimates the following percentages averages for labour costs:

  • Quick Serve Restaurants: 31.6% Labour Cost
  • Fast Casual Restaurants: 28.8% Labour Cost
  • Casual Restaurants: 34% Labour Cost
  • Upscale Casual Restaurants: 31% Labour Cost
  • Pizza Restaurants: 30.01% Labour Cost
  • Total Average Restaurant Labour Costs: 31.6%

Photo by: Pixabay | Pexels

How do you calculate labour cost percentage?

To avoid wasting money, keep a close eye on your finances with minimal profit margins because many expenses are set in stone and unavoidable. Hence, you'll want to focus on cutting costs where you can.

Wages are one component of labour costs, but there are others. You need to add together the following items to identify your labour costs:

  • Wages for salaried workers
  • Wages paid on an hourly basis to employees
  • Pay for extra hours worked
  • Taxes on employee wages
  • Insurance for health care
  • Days off from work that is compensated
  • Over a predetermined time, such as a week, month, or year, you sum up these costs to get your actual labour costs.

How is labour calculated in a restaurant?

In this part, you’ll discover how is labour calculated in a restaurant. We’ll tackle labour expenses, labour costs, operational costs, and many more. Scroll down for more.

Labour expenses as a percentage of total revenue

For the most part, this is how labor costs are expressed as a percentage of total costs. Since your revenue will cover your labor costs, you must have a good labor-to-revenue proportion. For example, expenses like rent and marketing must be covered with the money left over.

Adding up all the expenditures stated above is how you keep track of your monthly labor costs. The next step is, to sum up, all your sales before you make any deductions. You now have an idea of how much money you're making each month. Once you've got both, you may calculate your percentage by dividing your labor costs by your income.

Total revenue minus labor costs equal labor cost as a share of the revenue

For instance: $4,000 divided by $15,000 equals a percentage of 26.67 percent.

Operational costs as a percentage of labor costs

Some expenses, as previously mentioned, are unavoidable. When you look at labor expenditures as a percentage of total costs. With this one, you can see where your money is going and where you may cut costs.

To begin, add up all your labor expenses using the methods described above for your future catering services, for example. The next step is to total up your expenditures. Don't forget to include everything from rent and electricity to marketing and software subscriptions to meal costs and uniforms. Finally, divide your labor costs by your overall costs.

Labor costs divided by total operating costs equal labor cost as a percentage of total operating costs

For instance, $4000 divided by $12,000 equals a percentage of 33%.

Electricity and restaurant equipment are two examples of fixed expenditures that can be accounted for with this technique. You'll also be able to determine a reasonable percentage for every spending this way.

Photo by: antonytrivet | Pixabay

How to achieve a good percentage of labour cost?

Your restaurant's labor costs should be kept under control if they are out of control. Even if your expenditures are healthy now, cutting them will allow you to increase your advertising budget or make investments in new machinery.

Organize your employees into teams.

Your employees have diverse responsibilities according to their job titles; hence their hourly earnings differ. You can examine how much each group of employees costs you by splitting them down into similar groups.

As an illustration, you'll be able to compare the average cost per 8-hour shift of your kitchen crew against your hosts and waiters, to help you with this one try using a rostering software to make rostering smoother.

Cost-cutting will reveal which groups have been the most costly. While it's never fun to fire people, going through this procedure can help you identify the budget savings that will have the biggest impact.


Ordinarily, you'll find one or two waiters and hosts in the front of the restaurant, along with some prep cooks and dishwashers back there. A manager will be in charge of everything from overseeing operations to dealing with customer service issues and anything else that comes up.

When you have a busy night, this crew may only cost you 20% of what you make that night. An unproductive shift like this can cost up to 50% of your earnings on a slow morning.

You can minimize the number of workers on a shift without sacrificing efficiency by cross-training your staff. On slow days, transferring a manager's duties to a hostess saves a lot of money in labor expenditures. The expense of scheduling a manager for a full shift will be cheaper than paying this person a few extra dollars an hour in these scenarios.

In the same way, hostesses can be taught to serve meals. Your host can keep you running even if a server fails to show up or has to leave early. After that, the manager can take over as host, saving you the trouble of bringing in extra staff.

Encourage good work and attendance by offering rewards.

Operating costs might be impacted by callouts and no-shows. If an employee fails to show up, you'll have to bring in a replacement. In addition to wasting time, it also irritates workers.

You can terminate staff for not showing up, but it won't deter future absenteeism. To do this, you should promote good behavior and encourage employees to show up for work.

You can, for example, reward workers with a bonus if they arrive on time or early for all shifts over a specified pay period.

Similarly, you can specify criteria for receiving a pay increase. Setting reasonable goals increases productivity and encourages hard work by rewarding employees and tracking their time efficiently with a reliable software.

Reduce the number of people who leave.

Employees prefer to feel appreciated, which goes hand in hand with the reason made above. If your employees don't think their work is worth what they get paid, they'll look for another employment. They may even choose another restaurant if they are uneasy or disappointed at work.

It's costly to interview and integrate new staff, especially if background checks, uniforms, and government-mandated permits are involved. Reducing your turnover can save you a lot of money in the long run.

Turnover can be reduced by making your employees feel appreciated and part of the team. One of the most effective methods to express your gratitude is to reward and recognize your employees.

When a worker goes above and beyond the call of duty, give them praise, no matter how tiny the gesture may be. Recognize everyone's efforts, even if they are as simple as organizing the supply closet or vacuuming the floors without being asked.

Of course, if you don't pay market rates, none of this will work. At the end of the day, your staff are working for you to make a profit. Using an award interpretation app to easily keep track of your employees’ awards and pay rates will help you stay on top and ensure they're receiving the right pay rates — they’ll appreciate it!

Photo by: RosterElf

Takeaway: Utilize the appropriate tools and resources

If you want to increase sales, you need to spend money on marketing as well and the same goes for increasing operational efficiency. In this case, the staff management system is an essential tool. 

You can do the following things with a Restaurant Rostering and Scheduling system like RosterElf:

  • Save up to 4% on Labour Costs
  • Drive Employee Accountability
  • Reduce Employee Time Theft
  • Roster by Skillset
  • Manage payroll by keeping track of employee work hours
  • Create cost analysis reports by compiling data

If you’re ready to get started and reduce the labour cost in your restaurant you can sign up for a free 30-day trial here.