Using Big Data to Improve Restaurant Business Processes

“Big data” is a buzzword so techy you might wonder what effect it could possibly have on smaller restaurants. The answer: a big one.

Big data refers to aggregating all the analytics and information swirling around to identify patterns and connect the dots that will help you fine-tune your processes — and boost your bottom line.

Restaurants of all sizes are figuring out how they can harness data on customers’ experiences and preferences to use them for determining menu and pricing decisions, site selection, marketing outreach, employee scheduling and more.

And although the big guys are embracing big data in a big way, smaller restaurants actually have an advantage because they are more nimble.

Consider the example of Brian Bordainick, CEO and founder of New Orleans-based dining startup Dinner Lab. He built this underground dinner club around the idea that data could be used to improve the restaurant industry. During and after each dining experience, guests are asked to give feedback on all aspects of the meal — from the food to the atmosphere — with the goal of making every event better.

Any restaurant can do something similar by looking at data they already have and analyzing patterns. For example, if you know that ¾ of your loyalty club members stop by during the work week, and the remaining ¼ on the weekend, you can start to tailor offers that are specific to each segment.
What if you did a deeper dive and determined that the majority of your weekend customers are families? That allows you to make your marketing even more specific to that segment.
Do you have outdoor dining that brings in the crowds on gorgeous days? If you use an mPOS like Instore, use the message area on your receipts to deliver a special offer for the upcoming weekend if the weather is expected to be glorious. Or, conversely, maybe your data shows that you’ll already be capturing walk-up traffic and you don’t need any extra inducement.

In addition to marketing, consider the impact that analyzing data can have on:

  • Menu items — if you have introduced a new menu item for a limited time, what are your customers saying on social media, and what are they saying to your servers? Both kinds of data are important as you determine whether it should become a staple.
  • Scheduling — Does the first weekend of the month look extra busy, while mid-month is slower? Analyze your dining patterns to help manage costs by staffing up only when you most need it. One restaurant in a New York suburb realized that traffic increased when the local high school had a home game or play, and they were able to staff up specifically for those evenings.
  • Inventory management — With the recent cold snap, most restaurants back east were probably selling more soup and comfort food than usual. Take a historic look at data from your POS to determine how weather patterns or holidays impact customer preferences to determine what you should stock up on.

“A revolution is going to happen, and it’s going to change the way businesses operate forever,” said Chris Diener, vice president of analytics for AbsolutData in an article for QSR magazine. “The key is, you’re not just in the restaurant business anymore; you’re in the information business, and you’ve got to collect and use that information to stay on top of the market.”

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.