Why Business Intelligence Matters to Restaurants

Most people who work in hospitality got into the business because they love food, enjoy meeting new people, and are passionate about creating great customer experiences. They probably never dreamed about becoming technology experts, but a good data infrastructure is just as important as a great chef or a popular bartender. Today’s restaurants increasingly depend on software to perform at peak efficiency and maximize revenue, and business intelligence (BI) is at the heart of this fundamental shift.

Users of business intelligence systems cross the line from guessing to knowing.

Gartner, a major research firm that provides technology-related insight, defines business intelligence as an “umbrella term that includes the applications, infrastructure and tools, and best practices that enable access to and analysis of information to improve and optimize decisions and performance.” So, what does that actually mean? In simplest terms, BI creates real visibility into a company’s operations so that executives can make decisions based on actual data, not on hunches or instinct.

Users of business intelligence systems cross the line from guessing to knowing — a critical advantage in the restaurant industry because owners and managers often oversee multiple locations and can’t be onsite at all times. BI also gives operators real-time visibility to address issues immediately — before customers start having bad experiences and potentially post their complaints online.

BI in the Real World

As an example, let’s look at something that is “out of sight, out of mind” for many restaurant professionals: water filters. An aging filter creates a cascading effect because impure ice impacts the quality of cocktails and other cold beverages, and customers will complain. In the process, those five-star online ratings turn into two- and three-star reviews. Business intelligence plays a major role in identifying and addressing this type of problem by automating inspections and making inspection data available in real time.

Most restaurant audits involve an individual manually cataloging what requires fixing. A manual inspection process tracks problems, but it fails to create visibility at the owner and manager level because it doesn’t make that data accessible in real time, and the process doesn’t automatically aggregate data across restaurants or historically, which means owners and managers have little visibility into trends and systemic issues. With a BI tool, managers get real-time visibility into inspections and can enforce compliance of company policies, such as replacing water filters on a regular schedule.

Because of that visibility, on-site staff members replace filters on time because their managers can immediately see when an inspection hasn’t been performed — and can contact stores that fail to comply with their policies. In addition to preventing negative customer reviews due to improperly filtered water, restaurants also avoid the expensive repairs often necessary after a filtration system suffers from neglect.

Detecting Trends

BI in the restaurant industry needs to:

  • Aggregate data across multiple locations in real time
  • Monitor quality standards, maintenance and policy compliance
  • Identify global trends over time or across locations that could impact your brand’s reputation
  • Create an actionable report that red-flags problems

All restaurant executives struggle to prioritize the issues most critical to address that will have the greatest impact, as at any given moment there are literally hundreds of initiatives that need improvement — from service time to food quality to facility conditions. A good BI tool empowers managers and owners to narrow their focus and implement the most wide-reaching company initiatives that will effectively move the needle and increase revenues, profitability and customer satisfaction globally across their business.