When someone chooses to enter the hospitality business, it is likely because they have some idea that a great meal is something more than just the food you eat. They probably did not enter this business thinking that they would have to start learning about digital marketing and artificial intelligence technologies. However, it is increasingly clear in today’s marketplace that success requires developing a deep understanding of data and how it can drive actionable insights for your business (and revenue) – whether it’s a corporate conglomerate or a coffee shop.
With the increasing sophistication of business intelligence (BI) tools – if properly applied – you can gain deep insights into how your restaurant operates and help your business run more efficiently and profitably.
How can BI help your restaurant?
A wedding venue is a significant investment and is one of the first decisions that you will need to take. It could also be one of the largest budgetary items on your spreadsheet. When looking at different venues, consider what type of meal you want to serve. Will it be a buffet or a sit-down dinner? Or perhaps you would prefer a reception with finger food? Or BBQ?
Depending on their functionality, your POS terminals can be connected to third party AI solutions. By examining employee input your restaurant can begin to understand how staff behaviour is affecting the bottom line. Employee fraud is a significant problem in many restaurants and will cost restaurants a great deal of money. These actions can be detected by analysing entries in the terminal, refunds and sales cancellations, all of these allow owners to build up a picture of any fraudulent behaviour.
Well, each of these ideas sounds delicious, but also, each of these meals requires you to make a choice. If you will be in a garden venue, then you might want to offer finger food and allow people to circulate. A three-course sit down will require substantially more investment in fit-out – plus tents if you are holding it during a season of problematic weather. If you choose a historic venue, which may go so far as to offer full seating as part of their wedding package, you may run into trouble if you hope to pair your beef entree with a hearty red wine. You may find yourself disappointed if there are rules that forbid dark-coloured beverages in place in order to protect the historic flooring. There are also organisational issues to consider. If you have chosen a trendy restaurant or pub with a dance floor and you want a buffet meal, it is important to make sure that the dance area does not interfere with the flow of people moving about the venue with their plates.
How do your customers move through your restaurants? Are people leaving in frustration because the lines are too long? If you take the time to watch your video feed, you might see where trouble spots are. You can even purchase an AI solution to do this for you.
Perhaps you have noticed that your inventory has developed some quirks – too much of one thing, or not enough of another. Or maybe you have a huge rush on coffee and muffins in the morning, but everyone wants sandwiches or cookies in the afternoon? These are things you can analyse through the lens of BI to gain actionable insights into your customer purchase behaviour. Make sure you are able to meet customer needs or try developing attractive promotions at the right time that will drive business.
Build an audience.
Make sure your business has a webpage and a sufficient social media presence. And be prepared to invest some time into its development. Make sure that you have great Instagram photos, tweets and Facebook pages with readable menus, good reviews and attractive photos. Also, ensure that you list your restaurant on a venue hire marketplace. These will all help drive your business and help you understand how people might be finding your business – what search terms do they use on Google? Does your business have all of its information listed in Google or Facebook? These will also help you understand your competition better. People use these digital tools to navigate their world today, and you have a good amount of options to make the most of your effort.
What kind of data do I need to see?
Business intelligence can be the product of AI algorithms, enriched data and/or amazing third party solutions. There are many vendors out there who offer scalable and affordable solutions that will fit your business, no matter the size. If a third party system is not in your budget right now, you can even gather a certain amount of this type of intelligence on your own. The overall goal is to build a data strategy and learn how to generate insights in an easy and understandable way.
Your in-house transactions are data-rich and offer great opportunities for insight. These can be divided into owned data and externally sourced data.
- Data from your website – What sort of traffic uses your website? Does it increase during certain times? Do you have a page to advertise your event services?
- Social media insights – When are your posts being seen? Post during peak hours to maximize your impact. What sort of profile do your users have, is there some special way to appeal to them?
- POS data (and any built-in reporting tools) – what sort of data aggregation or sorting can be carried out? Can you do any predictive analysis based on the insights you have gained in this way?
- Bookkeeping and scheduling information – Check for fraudulent activities and ways to maximise your inventory.
- Loyalty programmes and client registration information – First-party data (client data) is the foundation of truly profitable insights. Understand as much as you can about your customers so you can improve your value proposition.
- Data from food delivery partners – what sort of delivery radius do they deliver to? Which dishes are the most popular, and how are your reviews? Many of these types of partners allow you to offer promotions, which you can advertise via social media – trigger these at peak times for order increases.
- Venue marketplace data – Where do your enquiries come from? Are you receiving queries for event booking but don’t convert? Can you consult with the online marketplace and seek their help in refining your offer?
- Google trends – Google can tell you quite a bit about your online traffic and this can help you hone your social media presence and your offer. For example, if most of your customers have dogs, consider pitching personalised offers for these types of customers or provide refreshment for them if they bring them along.
- Industry reports and trends – Staying up to date with industry trends is crucial. Industry associations offer great blogs and newsletters or magazines that will offer great advice about new ways to please customers and stay in the red. Take the time to stay up to date with these.
Business Intelligence in the restaurant industry can offer different levels of insight to differently sized restaurants – with a commensurate price difference, of course.
If you are a bigger restaurant with several locations strong BI has the potential to:
- Aggregate data in real-time and across different locations for reporting insights. These can be bundled via a third-party solution and presented in dashboards for managerial decision making.
- Ensure that quality is maintained, as well as compliance with company policies and fraud prevention. With these types of solutions, you will be able to ensure that employees are reporting accurate transactions and working in accordance with the best standards and regulations.
- Identify trends on a larger scale that can impact a business. Health trends or other new information that hits the internet can significantly affect your bottom line. Staying ahead of the curve will allow you to come up with new offers that will anticipate these vagaries of the marketplace.
If you are still a smaller business – a cafe or one location restaurant, you can still see enormous benefits with attention to Business Intelligence strategies and insights.
- Business profitability. Understanding your revenue drivers in a more insightful way will have an immediate impact on your bottom line. When you start to see what you are doing right, you can focus on building on this success and not wasting energy on those things that hold you back.
- Waste and loss. Find out the areas where waste and misplaced effort are reducing profits. Employee waste or needless expenses can be rectified only when they are understood.
- Find opportunities to grow. When you isolate the things you do well, you can build on them. This type of strategy is a true investment in your business.
Discovering what you do well, and how you can do it better may seem like an obvious insight, but this is the idea that should drive your business intelligence strategy. Whether you are a multi-location chain or a single small coffee shop there are many ways to maximise your business knowledge – and there is always room to grow.
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