Why your restaurant’s everyday data can be a business asset

Why your restaurant’s everyday data can be a business asset
By Don Gray
May 7, 2014
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If you have never heard the term “dataculture” and try to find it in the dictionary, I’m afraid you are out of luck – it is a word I created. If you search the internet for “dataculture” you may find websites that talk about “data culture” (two words) which generally describe the need for data management, data driven decision making and, of course, how to manage now well-worn “Big Data.”

However, I think what many restaurant operators of small- to medium-sized businesses need before they start tackling “Big Data” is a method or process to grow and nurture the data they can get today from their POS and accounting systems so it serves their needs. Before a restaurateur can focus on data-driven decision making, it is a good idea to understand in advance why you want or need any analytical data at all.

A sea of information

The average fast casual restaurant generates 30 transactions per register per hour. Each transaction contains a wealth of data points such as menu items, prices, time stamps, operator identity and more. Over the course of a 10-hour operating day and multiplied by the number of registers and units you have, this results in a vast sea of potentially useful data.

Increasingly, our clients analyse their data to select new locations, refine new menu items, schedule employees efficiently, retain high value customers, slash wasteful spending and drive up visit frequency and average bill.

And that’s just scratching the surface of what dataculture can do.

Think of dataculture as you would horticulture or agriculture. I see horticulture as the art as well as the science of growing and sustaining a garden year over year in good and bad weather. It requires knowledge of the plants you want to grow, information about the soil you have available and some experience to prune or weed where and when necessary.

Requires expertise

Similarly, a restaurant could spend time and resources trying to track every metric it can get its hands on, yet still be unable to cultivate any useful insights. It needs the right tools and expertise to automatically gather, compile and then analyze its data.

Dataculture is more about husbandry than technology, and it requires you or someone in your organization to foster a culture of data within the company. It also requires you have at least one or two dataculturists (another new term I use to describe someone who practises dataculture) on the team. If you do not take the time to think about the conditions within your organization that are present when your data is being grown it is very possible the big, little or tiny data you add to your ever growing database will not help your decision-making and could even send you in the wrong direction.

Just as a good horticulturist will take time to plan his or her garden so the yield is optimized and it looks good from different angles and light conditions, a dataculturist will take the time to visualize the different ways data needs to be presented before they start “growing” the data.

Dataculturists will need to tailor their findings for their audience. Both a QSR and a casual dining restaurant are interested in speed of service, but the former thinks of shaving seconds off each transaction while the latter is focused on table turns.

Customization possible

Technological advances in data acquisition and data analytics are making it easier for restaurants of all sizes to custom-build the reporting and visualizations they get from their databases, but this is only possible if the data is “grown” properly and continually maintained.

It is possible today to have information sent to managers in real time, but if this information is too detailed and repetitive it will soon get ignored and become more like weeds in the garden that cloak what you want or need to see.

So what would be truly useful for a store manager, a regional manager or owner to know in real time? Ask the question, then work with your information service provider (if you have one) or your IT department (if you have one of those) to make sure the data being collected can be presented in a sustainable and productive fashion month over month, year over year. If you don’t have a service provider or a capable IT department, you should consider finding one or the other before you start cultivating data.

Progressive growth companies unburdened by legacy IT systems and capable of injecting data into the decisions their managers make daily are leading the way. In this new era, data becomes central to decision making, driving sales while making the organization’s operations more efficient.

This is the first in a series of articles on dataculture and how companies can use it to start turning everyday data into a business asset. My next article will describe the five stages an organization needs to take to leverage dataculture to drive business performance. Future articles will explore the advantages dataculture brings to the marketing, operations, and financial aspects of a company’s ability to deliver optimal results.

See also:

About the author

Don Gray is CEO of Givex Corporation, a global information services and technology company offering clients cost-effective gift cards, omni-channel loyalty, analytics and cloud-based POS solutions. Givex helps small, medium and large merchants build, understand and effectively use their ever-expanding data. Visit them at www.givex.com, on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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