The restaurant industry is evolving with the tides of technological advancement, so it comes as no surprise that tools like Big Data are being thrown into the mix for small and large businesses, alike. In a data-driven world, this transition can be expected, but what is Big Data? And more importantly, what does it mean for Fast Casual and Quick Serve Restaurants (QSR)?
Far less complicated than the name suggests, the core component in a restaurant’s Big Data is the collection of information from the Point-Of-Sale (POS) transactional data. This data alone is like a gold mine for Fast Casual and QSR operators as it provides an in-depth insight into purchase and behavioral information, with the power to transform the restaurant business.
Analyzing this data might seem like an arduous task, so let’s break it down just to simplify it a bit. Like any other business, each restaurant has to start by understanding what data is important and determining how to collect it. Let’s break collection into – 1) Internal and 2) External sources of data and information. Internal sources of data include the POS system, inventory system, kitchen display system, and financial system. External data is gleaned from your customers or the environment, and can span from customer activity in your restaurant, to local events at a nearby school/venue, to current weather conditions, to the restaurant’s social media channels, and even to customer loyalty programs. Both types of data are essential to having a holistic understanding of how you should interact with your customers.
There is no doubt that your internal POS data will provide the most intelligence for enhancing customer experience and reducing operating costs. One way to capitalize on opportunities for increased ROI is by using Big Data to fuel Digital Menu Boards (DMBs) and Digital Signage displays. Based on the time of year or specific menu items sold, sophisticated and automated DMBs change the restaurant’s messaging to sell more of a specific high revenue, or high margin product. The same applies if you have out of stock items, which need to be off the menu for now. Integrating your POS systems with your restaurant menu boards will ensure that prices are in sync, eliminate old promos, feature up-to-the-minute promos, and do a much better job of compelling the customers to buy whatever is driving your menu strategy. Further integrating with inventory and kitchen display systems allows you to manage to available products and food service wait times. All of these bring you into the 21st century thinking of leveraging Big Data.
Ultimately, all this information serves to enhance the customer experience. Consumer experience is the heartbeat of the restaurant industry, and it can make or break a restaurant. Advanced menu boards listen to the internal and external data points and translate those insights into improvements. Displaying content based on DMB and POS integration, allows customers to see relevant information while they either wait or dine.
You must remember that an age-old rule also applies to the use of Big Data. “Garbage in equals garbage out” reminds us that the quality and attention put into collecting the correct and accurate data directly impact the value of your insights in the end. Big Data isn’t a solution for the half-hearted. It requires intentional investment and time, but the result will revolutionize the way you operate in the restaurant industry. And, it’s really not that complicated if you think about how to set yourself up for ongoing success from the beginning.