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National Restaurant Association - Big data checklist: How to get started

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Big data checklist: How to get started

Big data equals big opportunities for your restaurant. But where should you start?  Use this checklist to generate some ideas, then read the NRA’s guide, “Big Data and Restaurants,” for detailed information to create a big data strategy for your operation.

  • Talk to your POS vendor. Find out whether you’re getting all the information readily available from the data you collect. Your POS system should be able to help you identify which menu items are most popular, which marketing efforts show positive results, and which guests use incentive and reward programs. Most systems also can store names, addresses, telephone numbers and emails guests provide when ordering online.
  • Take the time to carefully categorize food and beverage items in your POS system. To get the most from your POS data, you’ll need to properly assign your inventory to the correct departments and categories. Be as specific as possible.
  • Evaluate what your payments processor has to offer. You might be surprised at the amount of data about your guests. Information might be available about purchases at other restaurants and retailers, as well as demographic data. For example, grocery chains long have mined customer data from loyalty cards to determine buying habits and trends.
  • Find out whether your systems “talk to each other.” Your restaurant is a complex ecosystem of software and networks. POS registers, self-order kiosks, kitchen-management systems, online-reservation systems and websites all generate log files. You need a way to organize and query that data. The “next big step” in data analytics for restaurants is to figure out how to bring together those disparate information sources.
  • Avoid drowning in too much data, Rob Bailey, CEO of DataSift, cautions in a Forbes magazine blog: “Enterprises need to define a focused strategy and identify exactly the data they need, rather than trying to analyze everything.” For those able to do this, valuable insights await, he says.
  • Look for software that can integrate unstructured data with traditional, structured data sources. The ability to monitor customer review sites, blogs, forums and social media sites will give you insight about customers, products and competitors. From online surveys and feedback streams, you can determine if menu items need to be improved or changed.
  • Determine your goals, and identify the type of data you need. Are you revenue-driven? Food-driven? If your goal is to reduce costs, streamline operations or better manage your staff, you might be interested in inventory control, supply chain management or scheduling solutions. If you’re more interested in food trends, menu options and improving the customer experience, your focus probably will be on social media, customer demographics and trends. You might need to invest in different solutions, depending on your goals.
  • Take advantage of apps like Food Genius, which track millions of menu items in different regions and identify dining trends to predict the popularity of a new dish.
  • Recognize that even the smallest operations can benefit from big data solutions. But size them to fit your operation and budget. You might be able to do some analysis yourself or without spending a lot on new software.

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