Big Data - how restaurants are creating a competitive edge

Taken from an original article on the PKF Francis Clark website.

I do not log onto or pay attention to my LinkedIn feed as often as maybe I should do, but today an article posted onto that platform did grab my attention. It was linked to an article in Wall Street Journal dated 2 October 2018 entitled: “How Restaurants Are Using Big Data as a Competitive Tool – restaurants, with more information than ever about their customers, tailor their menus and service to individuals”. For those that subscribe to the Wall Street Journal, the article can be found at here.

The article is US focused and is arguably centered around two points:

  • A need for differentiation – the article contains a quote from David Portalatin, a food-industry adviser at market-research firm NPD Group Inc. “Total restaurant traffic is not growing, so anything restaurants can do to offer a better customer experience differentiates them from the competition.”
  • Availability of data – “It wasn’t long ago that such careful attention to diners’ preferences was the province of mom-and-pop restaurants and some fine-dining establishments. But the mobile age has changed all that, allowing chains to develop that capability, using mobile apps and digital reservation systems to track customer preferences and spending habits and sharing it across their systems. Some 2.8 billion restaurant orders were placed digitally in the past year NPD says, or five per cent of total orders. That is up from two percent in 2015.”

Data collected can be used by US restaurants and cafes in many ways including:

  • One restaurant’s mobile booking app that asks for the person booking to indicate dietary restrictions (e.g. gluten) and then flags which meals contain those ingredients.
  • A café chain that began collecting customers email addresses when signing onto in-store Wi-Fi The gained data, including purchasing behavior, on an additional five million customers, will be used to offer those customers personalised deals.
  • Use of a cloud-based reservation system that enables restaurants to create detailed guest profiles with notes on everything from allergies to wine preferences and to share that data across a company with multiple sites. This system has attributed to higher guest satisfaction and more repeat visits; with uses such as:
    – Restaurant managers using the system to review a diner’s past choices before they arrive on a given night. If the diner prefers a certain drink, he or she is greeted with that cocktail.
    – When managers notice that a guest always orders the same thing, they send the guest a new dish on the house, to expand diners’ horizons and encourage them to return more frequently

  • One restaurant chain is working on upgrading an app that provides more personalised nutrition information, making menu recommendations based on how food makes people feel. If, for example, someone indicates that kale makes them feel bloated, or that quinoa leaves them feeling full and energized for hours, the app will be able to tailor menu choices around that.

I do appreciate that we are not the US, but I will be interested over the coming months to better understand what our food and drink clients are doing in this area and whether there is a role to play for our ‘tech’ clients.

A blog post, again from the US, on the subject of Big Data use makes the point that it is not just about capturing data, it is how you are going to use the data that is the key:

“Big data will be a boon for restaurants. While right now you’re being persuaded to think about the next consumer-facing deployment you need to make — a mobile app, a mobile payments platform to accept, online ordering, or even tablets on tables — you really need to think about what you’re going to do with the data you collect from these funnels. Strong homes start with strong foundations.”

Concluding with a tie to a PKF Francis Clark event

Freelance technology writer Rick Delgado highlights the benefits of cloud accounting to the food and drink industry “using cloud computing software, the company was able to measure the impact of their changes on profits, while also enabling them to measure pricing and marketing effects more accurately.”

We have a number of cloud accounting experts located in each of our offices and one, at least, will be involved in the delivery of Truro office’s November breakfast briefing – “Accounts – making the figures work for you”. For more details and / or to book a place please click here.

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