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How Your Restaurant Can Use Big Data [A Beginner's Guide]

Posted by Adam Sanders | November 03, 2017


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It can appear scary and daunting, but it’s not. You may not be a “techie person”, but it doesn’t matter. People may tell you it’s only for big restaurants, but they’re wrong. Big Data can help your restaurant succeed. In fact, Fast Company named data-driven restaurant management, or using software to analyze data in order to make better business decisions, as one of the restaurant industries top 10 innovations, ever. Keep reading and I’ll show you how your data can improve your operation.


Big Data and You

Data is everywhere. It’s how Netflix shows you movies that you’ve never heard of, but end up really liking. It’s why Amazon suggests you buy a turtle sweater in November when your son bought Gerald, a rare spiny softshell snapper, over four months ago. But, despite the fact that people have generated 90% of all the data that’s ever existed within the last two years, big data isn’t actually all that big. Just like Apple created a world where you can manage all the data associated with your personal life with the tap of a finger, there have been similar strides for systems that help you collect, measure and interpret your restaurant’s data. From your point-of-sale system to scheduling tools, you now have the analytical abilities once only available to the world’s largest companies. Don’t fear your data, embrace it. It’s already here.


The Sky’s The Limit

You may not think you have a lot of data, but you do. From transactional, customer and employee data, your restaurant is actually a data collecting machine. But what good is all this data if you can’t interpret it in a way that allows you and your managers to improve how you do business? Ultimately, you want to be using your data to better understand your guests' needs, wants and behaviors. Once you have this figured out, you can leverage that knowledge to improve productivity, better forecast food and labor costs, optimize your menu and more.

Thankfully, the operators just starting to make data-backed decisions can rely on restaurant management tools to do the analytical heavy lifting. As a busy restaurant operator, you can simply pick and choose how you want to analyze your data in order to make better informed decisions.

Your POS: An Unopened Treasure

The wide-spread adoption of point-of-sale (POS) systems has enabled restaurant operators like you to easily get in the big data game. Without POS, restaurant operators collect and store bits of information manually or in Excel, which makes data analytics nearly impossible. Now, every day your POS generates a ton of data. Avero unlocks this check level information and turns it into actionable insights.


How you want to leverage this information is up to you. You could identify your best servers and what makes them great in order to train low performers, or start a promotion to move a varietal that isn’t moving, or even adjust how many cups of soup to prepare on rainy days -- yes, our solution even accounts for the weather.

There are endless ways to analyze the data stored in your point-of-sale, and once you dig in, you may become a guru yourself. But, don’t worry. When you decide to adopt data-driven restaurant management, you’ll see value the very first day. Here are a few examples of quick wins you can expect:

QUICK WIN: Digital Check Search

How often does a customer call and ask for a copy of an old receipt? When they do, is it easy to find? Depending on your method for storing your receipts, the task could be very difficult to impossible. Stop the madness! Using your historical data, today’s software allows you to instantly look up a customer’s check and provide them a digital copy of the receipt.


Today’s consumer expects the places they patron to be convenient and personal. Updating something as simple as your check search process will save time and allow you to deliver a superior customer experience that could result in a return visit.

QUICK WIN: Menu Optimization

There are many factors that go into optimizing your menu. From organization and design to descriptions and pictures, you have a lot of decisions to make. But what good is the best-looking menu if your offering mix doesn’t yield acceptable revenue. Typically, there are four types of dishes on a menu:

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You may be able to guess which items on your menu will fit into each category, but there are many factors influencing how a dish performs. By leveraging your POS data and Avero, you don’t have to guess; you’ll be able to make decisions based on hard facts. Over time, you can fine-tune your menu to include fewer dogs and more stand-outs.


Menu optimization is a process that never ends for restaurants, and progresses one observation at a time. This process of incremental improvements makes it a great place for beginners to start flexing their analytical muscles.

QUICK WIN: Food Prep Forecasting

Now that you’ve gleaned what items are selling, you can take it a step further and start predicting how much of a certain dish to produce based on variables like the day of the week, what local events are happening or whether there’s rain in the forecast. This crystal ball, courtesy of your historical check-level data, gives you the ability to reduce costs and food waste by better projecting how much of a single item you should prep given its past performance.


This precision not only helps reduce waste; the benefits of accurate prep trickle down through your inventory and ultimately your food orders. When you waste less food on the prep station, you'll reduce your overall food costs. It works in reverse too. By better predicting rushes and demand generated by special occasions or events, you’ll limit 86’ing popular items, so your stand-out items keep generating revenue and, most importantly, your customers stay happy.

While you soak all this in, remember, data is not just numbers, it’s information. And, you know what that aptly named Sir Francis Bacon said, “ipsa scienta potestas est”, or information is power. So, don’t be scared to harness this power. Invest in the tools that allow you to collect and measure this information, as measurement is the first step that leads to control and eventually improvement of your restaurant’s operations. If you can’t measure something, you can’t understand it. If you can’t understand it, you can’t control it. If you can’t control it, you can’t improve it.

While Bacon died trying to advance the art of food preservation, dipping your toe into the world of Big Data can’t hurt you. It can however, and likely will, help you become a better operator. Check out this short video to learn more about how restaurant management software can boost your restaurant's sales and improve productivity.