Written by Tony Hall, CTO of Compeat
It all started with an egg. As the National Restaurant Association marks it’s 100th anniversary, it’s hard to believe that the organization that has become the largest advocacy group for the foodservice industry began as a grassroots movement based around this staple found in nearly every kitchen.
Now, instead of protesting increasing egg prices, dealing with prohibition, fair wages and segregation, the industry is now grappling with the challenges of providing a differentiated, outstanding customer experience in the face of increasing personnel costs, technology integration and competition from delivery services.
Even a decade ago, offering great food and good service was enough to earn restaurants a loyal following. But now, consumer’s expectations are much higher. Today’s patrons want an elevated experience, one that not only satisfies their own desires, but one that will also impress their friends and position them as tastemakers in their community for discovering and experiencing unique dining options. Not to mention, as home delivery services have consumers preparing their own gourmet at home, the veil has been lifted, so to speak, on what it takes to plate a creative, delicious dish.
To overcome these obstacles, data is emerging as the modern-day egg that will catalyze the next evolution in dining out and usher in a new evolution in customer experience. Here are a few examples of how business intelligence data will become the “egg” of the future, fueling restaurants to deliver on patrons’ increasing expectations and grow their business.
- Delivering dining insights. With the right set of tools in place, like back office software, to track trends in customer requests and popular dishes, restaurants can make menu adjustments that satisfy evolving dietary changes and shifting taste trends with much lower risk. Rather than acting on a hunch to add new items and get stuck with unused inventory, data-driven restaurants can look at their order histories to see what patrons are asking for and make decisions more confidently, knowing the new dishes will be well-received.
- Surfacing staffing needs. With increases in minimum wage and more stringent payroll guidelines, restaurants must get their staffing levels in order to balance service delivery with fiscal responsibility. By reviewing dining data and traffic patterns with advanced back office management software, restaurant managers can better plan personnel levels for every shift and even make changes on the fly. This ensures patrons get the level of service they expect, without the added cost of overstaffing.
- Going mobile with management. The days of forcing restaurant managers to be tied to a PC in the back office for management tasks is coming to an end. Cloud-based management solutions that provide 24/7 access to critical business data is transforming the business – staff can count and order inventory, create and assign schedules, review P/L data and more from any mobile device. This instant access gets managers out of the back office and onto the floor, where they can better ensure the delivery of outstanding customer experience.
- Allaying allergen fears. Food allergies, sensitivities and dietary restrictions are a major issue for restaurants, which not only potentially turn customers away, but could even prove fatal. Menu-building software that leverages ingredient and nutritional databases can help overcome these challenges by putting accurate data into servers’ hands where they can quickly suggest menu alternative, providing exceptional service in challenging situations.
- Responding to customer feedback. Social media can turn a single customer complaint into a viral nightmare. Monitoring review sites like Yelp and aggregating data on posts, hashtags and other related tracking metrics, can help restaurants respond to issues proactively to head off any potential reputation damage. The ability to handle this modern-day word-of-mouth as a data-driven process can help restaurants mitigate risk and even build a loyal following through savvy social media use.
As we look ahead to what the next century might hold for the foodservice industry, it’s critical that restaurants get onboard with new technologies. The ability to gather and crack open business data to gain insights and evolve your offering based on accurate information is a strong advantage for all restaurants. As the competition heats up, let data be the next egg that catalyzes your growth and success in the future of dining.