What is the Golden Hour?

CAKE is dedicated to improving restaurant operations at every level. So we wanted to know – is there such thing as a “Golden Hour” for restaurants? To find out, we analyzed data from more than 2,000 independent restaurants using the CAKE platform to find out what times of day are most profitable.

As it turns out, restaurants can easily generate 2x to 3x as much revenue per hour during their busiest peak times, so focusing on these Golden Hours is crucial to a restaurant’s success.

What’s more, when you definitively understand your busiest hours, you can prepare by having enough staff, ingredients and other resources on hand. Whether you decide to prepare extra dishes, premix drink specials or develop other preemptive habits, anticipating a surge can help you stage everything to make your Golden Hour a success.


Golden Evenings

From 6 pm – 9 pm, restaurants make double or triple the amount of revenue they generate at other times of day. It’s the dinner rush, and it’s the best time for restaurants to make the most revenue. It’s also the most important time to be prepared.

For example, 6 pm – 9 pm is a smart timeframe to bring on a second bartender, or open up extra seating for larger parties. Make sure you have enough employees on hand to avoid common dangers of understaffing, like missed orders, low staff morale and poor service.

Staff training, meetings, and back office business should ideally occur before your evening Golden Hours, so all of your employees can pitch in during the rush. What’s more, our data showed that during weekdays, average revenue on Thursdays is nearly double what it is on Mondays, so day of the week matters just as much as time of day as you consider staggering your staff. Scheduling is an art, not a science!


Afternoons Take the Silver

The second-most profitable time of day is in the afternoon, between 12 pm and 2 pm. Americans go out to lunch an average of twice a week, and their spending habits don’t always correlate with income. A 2013 survey by Visa found that the greater a guest’s income, the less money they’ll spend on an afternoon meal.

Afternoon Golden Hours are a great time to offer specials that appeal to frugal businessmen and women looking for a break from the office. Loyalty programs are a smart way to turn one-time guests into daily diners. Depending on the businesses located near your restaurant, you might increase revenue by offering every 10th coffee for free, or inviting customers to return on the same day for a discounted evening meal.

On the flip side, our data showed the biggest single drop in sales after 1 pm, with average revenue continuing to drop every hour until the dinner rush. If your off-peak hours aren’t profitable, you could consider launching specials during those hours to increase traffic. Alternatively, you might consider closing for a few hours to lower operating costs and re-opening before the evening Golden Hour guests start pouring in.


Staying Gold

Track profits as you go forward and you’ll continue to earn more and more. Technology can help you monitor all of your data so that you can continue to focus on the hours that work best for your restaurant. Focusing your efforts on your personal “Golden Hours” ensures more reliable revenue throughout the week.