In earlier blog posts we explained how easy it is to become overwhelmed by the amount of data available to restaurant owners these days. We also delved into the many different flavors of data – from direct and indirect to qualitative and quantitative. While it’s important to be knowledgeable about the distinctions that characterize various types of data and to understand that you’re not alone in grappling with what to do with vast amounts of information, ultimately the question any business owner will have is this: How do I use data to take wise and profitable action?
Fortunately, we have developed four best practices to aid you as you move from data collection to action. Follow these steps to ensure the effort you put into learning all about your customers and your own operations is used most effectively:
Don’t change course too radically: With our health, we can often make the mistake of assuming that doing something beneficial – like running or eating carrots – will be even better for us the more we do it. Eventually, bum knees or orange-hued skin make us realize that’s not always true. Similarly, it can be a mistake to overreact to what your data tells you. For instance, if customer surveys tell you diners overwhelmingly prefer hot and spicy dishes, it’s still probably not a good idea to add jalapenos to your award-winning macaroni and cheese or pound cake. Instead, use the information you gather to make adjustments that bring you closer to the ideal.
Have patience: Just as it’s important not to over correct based on what data tells you, it’s also wise to resist any sort of knee jerk reactions. Numbers for customer service and the quality of certain dishes will undoubtedly fluctuate from day to day and week to week. Before you take any sort of action to correct a problem or capitalize on an opportunity, be sure to understand whether the trend you are acting upon is actually long-term and sustainable, not a blip.
Stay nimble: Collecting data and acting on it is not a one-time proposition. Instead, it’s a process and a commitment to always listen and respond to what your customers are telling you. Think of it as an ongoing two-way conversation, one in which you are constantly adapting your business to what you learn. If you try something and it doesn’t work, try something new. Always be prepared to use data to adapt and evolve until you find something that works. Then once that stops working you adapt again.
Understand the limits of data: Running a restaurant is not the same as fixing a motor. As a mechanic, the data and information you collect could very well lead you to the one and only solution to a problem. As a restaurant owner, though, data may just lead you to more questions that will ultimately help you arrive at an answer. For instance, if the data you collect shows you that response times are slow, can that be attributed to the staff? Or perhaps the kitchen runs best when a certain manager is working?
Data is an effective and increasingly essential tool for running a good restaurant. But never forget that it’s what you do with all the information that really matters. So act wisely.
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Skip Cass is the chief executive officer at LRS and an expert in operational efficiency and creating a memorable guest experience.