Using Excel to Track Restaurant Labor Costs

Labor cost is one of the biggest expenses a restaurant has, especially if employee benefits such as healthcare, PTO time, and/or 401k are also offered to employees. If you don’t have a professional software package to track labor, then using a restaurant labor cost Excel template can help you manage your expenses. The form on this page is designed to help you create a budget based upon your actual staffing levels, forecast labor cost based upon anticipated business levels, and then get actual labor costs when you have final numbers for the period being evaluated.

On this page I will explain how to use this restaurant labor cost Excel template, which is available to $5.00 premium members of Chefs Resources. The spreadsheet contains multiple tabs, so lets look at each one individually. The download near the bottom of this page and will bring you to our download library. Note: there is only one true download button near the bottom of the page…anything stating download before that is probably an ad.

Forecast Labor Worksheet

The Labor Forecast tab is for entering the scheduled hours for all of your food & beverage positions, broken down into FOH (front of house) and BOH (back of house) positions. For BOH, the image below shows grill cooks, saute cooks, pantry cooks, etc, but you can rename them to whatever positions your restaurant uses. Next, enter the wage for each position, the number of people needed for that position. and the number of hours scheduled. If you have staff with different rates of pay working the same position, simply enter Grill Cook 1, Grill Cook 2, or some other designation so you can accurately enter the wages and hours for each team member.

You can do this by the week, or by the day, or whatever period of time you want to forecast. The areas in yellow is information you need to enter. The cells in white are formulas which automatically calculate when you enter all the needed info in the yellow cells. The darker blue areas at the bottom of each section also automatically display the totals for each column.

Forecast Restaurant Labor Cost Spreadsheet

After you have entered your scheduled hours in the Forecast Labor section, the Forecast Labor Summary area gives you “at a glance” vital into about your labor statistics. In the yellow areas, enter your forecasted covers, food and beverage sales, and then the rest calculates for you. Based upon the numbers you forecast, you can see the estimated Average Check (before tax), total scheduled labor hours and wages (without the cost of benefits), total labor hours per cover (not cuver as in the image!), labor cost $ per cover, labor percentage forecast, and the total number of covers served per labor hour.

You can see the stats for the FOH and BOH displayed separately. Covers per labor hour is a relatively new statistic (I wasn’t taught it until about 10 years ago).  It is the number of customers served per labor hour. The higher the number the better, because it means more guests are served for every labor hour. Note that in most restaurants, the covers/labor hour is always higher (better) for the FOH than for the BOH. This is because cooks usually have longer periods of time working (prepping) getting ready for service while there are no customers.

Also notice that the total Covers per Labor Hour on the Forecast Labor Summary is a smaller number than the separate FOH & BOH Covers per Labor Hour. This is because the number of Covers remains the same, but the number of hours used in the calculations change (BOH hours, FOH hours, or total labor hours of BOH and FOH)

Forecast Restaurant Labor Cost Statistics

Labor Budget Worksheet

The Budget Labor Forecast Staff Requirements tab is a tool to help you determine the amount of staff needed based upon volume of business. The purpose of this sheet is to establish the minimum amount of staff needed based upon how slow or busy it is.

Near the top of the page there are 5 columns under the heading “Number of Customers per Hour”. Use this to determine your minimum “skeleton” crew needed to run the restaurant on the slowest shifts. Then add the number of covers per hour where you need additional staff., even if it’s just 1 person. Continue this process until you have reached your maximum number of staff needed for a very busy night. You may not need all 5 columns.

Once you have completed this process you can then use the Forecast Labor sheet to see what your labor cost will be for each level of business.

The Restaurant Labor Cost Excel Template offers 2 different ways to use this information. The most common way to use it is to consider the Number of Customers per Hour as it relates to your busiest and slowest days. So if on Tuesday’s you typically are open for dinner from 5 pm – 11 pm with an average of 30 customers per hour, how many staff in each position do you need to best serve those guests? Using it this way you might only use 4 columns: slow days, medium days, busy days, and holidays or event/concert days.

The second way to use this form is to use it to forecast the amount of staff needed for a specific day or shift, helping you write schedules for busy and slow days/shifts. In this case, the Number of Customers per Hour will fluctuate with your normal business peaks and slow periods and the Number of Customers per Hour will coincide with specific times, such from 5:00 -6:00, 6:00 – 7:00, etc. The form can help you determine how best to schedule people, perhaps even using short shift staff to cover just the 4 hours of highest traffic.

Calculate Restaurant Labor Budget

Once you know the number of staff needed and have a schedule written for the week or month, enter the numbers into the Budget Labor Forecast Cost form to get an forecast on what your labor cost will be (assuming the schedules don’t change, the covers and sales numbers are accurate!) If the Key Statistics numbers look acceptable, then lets hope the period ends as planned! If the numbers are not in line with your budget goals, then this is the time to make changes.

Labor Cost Budget Statistics

Restaurant Labor Cost Actuals

After the period has ended, calculate the actuals. Take this info directly from actual hours worked, actual covers, actual sales. This form has 2 ways to enter this info, based upon what is easier for you. The first method is to enter actual labor hours and wages manually for each individual team member. This works good if you have a smaller operation. Once you have filled in the info for your team, create a master version of this form and save it. That way, next time you do the actuals, all you will need to enter is the hours worked.

The second version (farther down) works great if you have some sort of time clock software which you can get reports from. See below for more info.

Restaurant Labor Cost Excel Template


This second version for calculating labor actuals works great if you have some sort of time clock software which tells you total hours and wages for staff by position. Simply enter those totals on the form. Of course, if you have that kind of software then it should be able to create this form for you.

Excel Labor Cost Actuals Worksheet

After you have the total labor hours and dollars for the period, enter the actual sales and covers. You can then see your actual labor statistics for the period. Compare these labor cost statistics against your forecast and make adjustments to future forecasting and/or schedules if needed.

Labor Cost Statistics Form


The Restaurant Labor Cost Excel Template is available to Premium Members

(get membership info)

Microsoft Excel required (not included)

Running a successful restaurant is a very difficult thing to accomplish over the long haul. It is a love/hate relationship financially, socially, and personally. But for those of us who are passionate about the business, the food, the lifestyle, and or the people, we would never give it up.

If you are a relative beginner to Excel then be sure to check-out our video on how to edit Excel sheets.


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