Big Data Boost for Restaurants

Published Jun-17-19

Using sensors and big data to improve the restaurant experience for diners.

Cava, United States

The Story:

Big Data Boost for Restaurants The restaurant industry like many others is looking at ways of how to leverage the wealth of big data at their fingertips. A survey conducted by The National Restaurant Association in the US revealed that four out of five restaurant owners believed that business would improve if they embraced technology, and a third worried they were lagging in those efforts.

From personalizing menus and improving service to increasing visibility into earnings and making backroom operations more efficient big data can help give restaurants a competitive edge and boost their bottom lines.

Dining Out on Big Data

One restaurant group taking advantage of opportunities provided by big data is Cava, a chain of Mediterranean-style restaurants with a presence in nine US states. It started by placing sensors along its queues.

No restaurant really wants to give the impression of long lines and interminable waiting times. When Cava's chief data scientist Josh Patchus examined the sensor data he discovered that customers were bunching up in front of menu boards and while they were selecting ingredients near serving stations. Faced with a lot of menu choices people were taking a long time.

Instead of cutting items from the menu to restrict choice the menu boards were redesigned so customers would know exactly what to expect when they reach the serving station. This produced excellent results with lines moving 10% faster and holding 12% more people.

Sensor data has also been used to seat customers strategically. Analysis of sensors located in seats revealed that customers in urban locations tend only to stay long enough to consume their meal while in the suburbs people prefer to linger. Based on these findings Patchus redesigned the seating so that suburban restaurants could accommodate large groups. This improved revenues in redesigned stores by 20% per square foot.

Personalized Experiences

McDonald’s is one of an increasing number of chains that let customers order and pay through an app, a super convenient option that also gives them access to exclusive offers and deals. At the same time, the company receives useful consumer data such as which locations were visited, how often, what was ordered and the length of waiting times. With this type of information brands like McDonald’s can deliver more relevant and personalized experiences to consumers.

Targeted Promotions

Big data is also being used to monitor guest ordering habits and to deliver targeted email campaigns. US-based Fig and Olive, which has restaurants in a handful of cities has used customer management software to win back custom from return customers. For example, with its "We miss You" campaign emails were sent to customers wondering why they hadn't been in for a while and offering a free crostino appetizer if they were to come back. The exercise achieved close to 300 visits and $36,000 in sales.

Beating the Competition

Restaurant owners of today face the exact same challenges of those of previous decades: marketing, attracting and retaining customers, managing the supply chain and optimizing labor. However, digital technologies, particularly data are giving them new ways to solve old problems. Brands that embrace these capabilities can provide even greater value while stealing a march on their competitors.

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