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National Restaurant Association - Wrap your arms around big data

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Wrap your arms around big data

Big data. It’s what Amazon uses to track millions of products and customers to deliver personalized buying suggestions whenever anyone visits its website. It’s also how Netflix recommends movies to keep its customers coming back. Maybe you’ve heard the term, but you don’t see how big data could possibly apply to your restaurant. It seems so big and complex.

Actually, big data isn’t that big anymore, thanks to tremendous gains in computing power, storage space, access to the cloud, and new software designed to help restaurants of all sizes unlock the secrets of their data and put useful information at their fingertips.

The data from your POS, marketing, accounting, inventory and scheduling systems is a vein of gold just waiting to be mined. Now your establishment can benefit from the same predictive analytics and business insights previously reserved for the likes of Amazon or Google.

Tip: Take a few minutes to jot down the types of data your establishment collects internally and externally, from point-of-sale transactions to customer information such as birthdays and anniversaries. You’ll be surprised how much data you have. The question is, are you collecting and processing the data in a way that is useful to your managers and staff?

Mike Hampton, dean of the Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at Florida International University, says the purpose of collecting data is to better predict changing guest desires, behaviors and trends. In turn, that data can drive menu changes, service, delivery changes or new location opportunities.

There are many data points in a restaurant. Everything you do creates data. When you think about it, your restaurant is a complex, multi-faceted operation that produces an incredibly rich array of data.

Think about your product mix, food and beverage costs, labor costs, customer interactions and social media — a few obvious data points. You’ve got food coming into your kitchen from various suppliers, menu and ingredient considerations, meal preparation, bar management, staffing schedules, table turnover, customer promotions — a ton of information just waiting to be analyzed.

But data isn’t just numbers. It’s information. And information is power. The faster and more accurately you can access and analyze information about your establishment, the better you can manage, control and improve your operation.

The rate at which you use condiments — that’s data. The number of times employees come in late — that’s data. The number of drinks you comp because of service errors — that’s data. There also are opportunities to use data to drive incremental revenues and target new customers more effectively.

Your data has value. It might seem trivial or underwhelming at first glance, but even the most discrete bits of information can help you better run your restaurant if you can measure them. Any information you can collect provides actionable data to identify trends, reduce costs, gain customer insight and provide a better experience. All you need is a way to identify, track and optimize your data.

That sounds like a tall order, but it’s not.  Download the NRA’s free guide Big Data and Restaurants to learn more about how you can implement a big data strategy in your operation.

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