When the National Restaurant Association Show 2015 opened last month, one item stood out on the menu:
No surprise there. Over 50 percent of restaurants say they’re spending more on tech initiatives than they did last year. And that increased budget isn’t just to improve the back office or employee productivity; it’s earmarked to enhance the customer experience, too.
NRA show attendees said they want more from tech than efficiency and customer satisfaction. They’re looking for something other industries have been chasing for years… Smarter devices. Data analytics. And true business intelligence.
Yesterday and today
Until 2015, almost half of tech projects targeted increasing employee productivity. This includes everything from automating mundane tasks to replacing outdated equipment.
While still a priority, this has now shifted to customer engagement. Customers want technology to make their waiting, ordering and dining an experience, not just a quick bite. The addition of guest pagers, kiosks, table location and management solutions enhance that experience.
Both of these goals are critical for a restaurant’s immediate success. But both also focused on today’s operations. What if technology could do more than just speed up tonight’s table service?
What if we could easily obtain important business insights so that our decisions address the #1 priority – business efficiency?
What about tomorrow?
One of the tenets of “big data” is that if we comb through enough raw data, we discover trends. The patterns in today’s data give us insights that allow us take action to improve tomorrow’s efficiency. Crunching all the data to find meaningful patterns is business intelligence.
To enable BI, we need smarter devices that are simple to use, yet they can capture important data for future analysis.
Think about the potential of such devices. A smart coffee maker could record the amount of ground coffee used, and the actual volume of coffee served each hour. This would allow an establishment to calculate and improve inventory as well as reduce waste, while still serving the customer fresh product.
A smart pager – like LRS’ updated and more advanced Guest Pager, uses two-way communications to acknowledge each page sent. By recording the time of each message, the operator gets insights into average guest wait times. This can help in planning to reduce wait times during peak dining hours.
On their own, these devices and their data might seem simple. But what if they became part of a bigger picture – an Operational Management System?
Knowledge is power – Operational Management Systems
Consider an example like table location technology. We already know its immediate benefits – it allows servers to deliver the food faster and to the right table, which also makes the guests happier. A double win.
But Table Tracker also stores and tracks a wide variety of data about the service at each table. It produces reports on the number of customers served each shift, the total order time and even where customers are sitting.
Analyzing these metrics can provide powerful insights into dining room and kitchen operations, and can translate into action plans for tomorrow, next week and beyond. The data offers the ability to:
- Know – not guess – daily customer volumes per shift. This results in a more efficient staff schedule.
- Calculate total order times. This allows restaurants to identify where improvements need to be made with dining or kitchen staff. It also helps identify which menu items take longer so guests can be properly informed.
- Analyze guests’ seating. This can point to a dining room in need of redesign or remodel. Improvements in furnishing and ambiance can go a long way.
- Compare volume and service data. This practice identifies which locations, days and times are “hot.” For multi-unit operators, this allows for better inventory control and waste reduction.
These are just a few insights from analyzing Table Tracker data alone …
Knowledge is power – and food for thought
Now imagine that data cross-referenced with data from other technology solutions, such as:
- Front door (guest paging, waitlist and table management)
- Back office (ordering supplies and inventory tracking)
- Employee (HR, timesheets and payroll)
- Customer satisfaction (digital surveys, social media feedback)
An Operational Management System (OMS) can combine and analyze data from many technologies.
With that kind of business intelligence, operators can
- Increase business efficiency,
- Improve employee productivity and
- Enhance the customer experience.
By implementing smarter technology and systems, the restaurant industry is able to glean valuable metrics, patterns and insights that are becoming increasingly vital to operational efficiency and customer satisfaction.
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Mai Lyn Ngo is a marketing coordinator at LRS and ambassador for solutions that create a better guest experience.