When people hear the term “big data” they often associate it with the online world – and who can blame them? Many recent studies of big data refer to how it has influenced personalization in the online world. In fact, the concept of big data has been around for ages. Some of the earliest pioneers of big data were pizza chains. For decades, pizza franchises around the country have gathered preference, location, and personal data on their customers – from the time of day they preferred to order a fresh pie, down to whether they wanted just plain cheese, or island ham and pineapple (my personal favorite). But for the longest time, this data just wasn’t easily actionable or accessible for the average restaurant.
What is Big Data, and How do Companies Use It?
In a nutshell, big data is the increasingly large amount of information that businesses gather about their customers. Not every effort made by a business is directly geared towards gathering this data, but every interaction reveals some level of insight on a customer’s profile. The number of people ordering dessert – that’s data. The rate at which you use inventory – data. The time at which the majority of orders are placed – that’s data too. The question then becomes, are you processing your data in a way that creates value for your staff and customers?
Big data essentially gives you the power to attribute behavior to an individual and be able to track that behavior over time. Online companies like Amazon were amongst the first to popularize the capabilities of employing machine learning to take advantage of the personalization and upsell opportunities that exist when a vast amount of data is present. Retail companies use big data to personalize shopping experiences, and some have even began to utilize facial-recognition technology in order to build a better customer profile.
But one of the most underserved industries when it comes to use of big data is restaurants. In a franchise system – where the chain of command starts at a corporate level and leads down to individual store managers – the concept of big data no longer sounds like an opportunity, but instead becomes the daunting task of having to sift through mismatched reports in an attempt to target customers effectively based on their preferences.
Take Advantage of the Data You Have
It’s apparent that restaurants already utilizing their big data have an edge over the competition. In fact, 57% of medium sized businesses are currently using analytics solutions to influence their business activities. If you’re not in this subsection of restaurants, you may be feeling like your big data is a big hassle. But once you learn how to break it down, big data is less overwhelming and you can use it to produce better customer experiences.
To start, take a look at the two main sources of data from your customer base. Data can be gathered from traditional sources – such as the POS system inside your restaurant – and data can be gathered from digital sources – such as your website or social platforms. Once gathered, data then needs to be processed through an analytics system to make it meaningful, so you can begin getting to know your customers.
Using data at scale can take you in a number of directions, so your first focus should be deciding on what problem or set of questions you are trying to solve. Are you curious what triggers higher spend in your restaurant? How to increase traffic on Tuesdays? What it takes to grow your customer base? Data can help on all of these fronts, as long as you have a goal in mind that you’re trying to accomplish.
One of the most effective ways to use your data is to synthesize each of these questions, and to use data to aid you in sending the right message to the right person at the right time – helping you increase sales, foot traffic, and revenue.