How to Use Spreadsheets

Spreadsheets are the nuts and bolts of managing a restaurant. In a business that has so many critical elements to track across the days, weeks, months, and years, using spreadsheets is a mandatory component of management. At the same time, your spreadsheets must be efficient and minimal. They must facilitate quick tracking and reference of the most important information.

This means that having the right spreadsheets for your restaurant is essential. Which spreadsheets to use and which are unnecessary depends on the context of your restaurant. However, there are a few components of restaurant management that always will require a spreadsheet. This includes:

  • Tracking inventory
  • Daily product counts
  • Tracking daily sales and revenues
  • Weekly food/beverage purchasing
  • Labor and payroll tracking
  • Scheduling
  • Weekly/monthly Profits and Losses reports

How to customize these spreadsheets to fit the needs of each restaurant depends on several factors. However, each is designed to accurately keep track of how much revenue is coming into the building and/or how much money is being spent. These have to be taken seriously for a restaurant to thrive over the long haul.

A few facts about spreadsheets are applicable in every circumstance:

  • They should be updated regularly (ideally daily or weekly)
  • They are best suited to be used on Microsoft Excel
  • Some components should be delegated to managers or staff
  • They should be logged permanently for later use

Understanding how and when to use spreadsheets depends on the type of elements being tracked. Below are a few points about each:

Inventory Tracking

Every item in the store – from the front door to the back door – should be counted regularly. Most well-run restaurants count everything once a week. The inventory spreadsheets most of them use are updated regularly, with columns for last week’s count, unit price, total value of inventory, this week’s count, and unit counted by (i.e. quantity, gallons, grams, lbs. etc.).

Daily Product Counts

The rule about inventory is that it must be counted as frequently as is practical. More restaurants are reverting to daily counts of proteins, wines, and beer. This reduces the risk or waste or product loss, and pinpoints the day if/when it occurs. A spreadsheet allows employees to make quick daily counts and compare them to product sold. This should be updated daily or weekly, depending on the type of inventory being counted.


Most point-of-sale (POS) systems simply this process, creating a daily sales report that breaks down sales in a variety of ways. This information should be transcribed each day or week into a comprehensive sales report. It should also be transmitted into a profits and losses report. It is important to note that Excel enables formulas and values to be automatically transcribed when they are entered into spreadsheets.

Food/beverage Purchasing

Purchase spreadsheets can be connected to inventory counts and price sheets, making it easy for managers and senior employees to make purchases. Decisions should be cut and dry, and some restaurants establish minimum thresholds at which ordering is mandatory, or even automatic. Again, Excel’s ability to convey data from one spreadsheet to others automatically makes this much easier.


Again, most payroll data is tallied and reported through a POS system. A dedicated labor report is sometimes helpful for tracking hours, alerting managers to employees who are approaching overtime, and tracking labor as a percentage of revenues and as a total cost. This too can be transcribed onto a profits and losses report.


Using spreadsheets for scheduling is a practice that dates back decades. However, automated spreadsheets have added several features over the years, including online templates that employees can access for changes and requests. These are often relatively cheap resources that yield constant access for employees and easy-to-use templates for managers.

Profit/Loss Reports

The greatest value of the profit/loss report is in constantly being aware of the condition of the business. This includes a continual updating that makes it possible to quickly compare to previous months and years. This also yields easy revenue projections that form the basis of ordering and scheduling.

If each of the previous spreadsheets have been carefully updated, most of the information on a profit/loss report will already be linked. The challenge of the profit/loss report shouldn’t be putting it together. It should be in pinpointing waste, cutting down costs, and recognizing sales trends. This is essential in running a business efficiently.