4 Ways to Make Data a Differentiator

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4 Ways to Make Data a Differentiator

By Julie Ritzer Ross, Contributing Editor - 05/10/2017
In increasingly crowded and competitive markets, restaurateurs and hoteliers are depending on data and analytics to distinguish their brands.  “Those looking to [sharpen competitive edge] will be required to tap existing data sources for the most sophisticated insights available,” says Rajeev Kaul, managing director and technology lead, travel, North America for research and consulting firm Accenture.  

Evaluating & assessing programs
Forward-thinking companies are harnessing data and analytics to make business decisions that center on predicting and assessing which initiatives they might adopt based on ROI and how successful they might be. 

Analyzing key strategic initiatives as new item introductions, menu optimization, and other significant business priorities can help restaurants measure in-market experiments across key performance indicators (KPIs) identifying which programs should work, where they should work best, and how they can be improved going forward.

Such analysis can generate incremental business by attracting new customers and leading to larger check sizes for existing customers and gain insight into how menu items are faring and to inform decisions.

Forecasting operational needs
For other players, predictive analytics play a key role. First Watch Restaurants, Inc. employs Restaurant Magic’s Data Central Management Suite for such functions as forecasting individual units’ sales and labor needs by daypart. It does this based on several variables, such as previous traffic and ordering patterns and whether or not it is a holiday explains Chris Olson, senior vice president, finance. With predictions that are more accurate, management is able to make more appropriate staffing and ingredient decisions, keeping costs in check.

Dimo’s Pizza is part of an annual bar crawl each year. Prior to working with Toast POS it had to try and recall how much inventory was sold and how many staff members worked that shift, says Dimitri Syrkin-Nikolau, owner. Instead of guessing, it can now accurately forecast what will be needed by pulling reports that show detailed sales and staff information from any time period.

Meanwhile, Concord Hospitality Enterprises Co., with a portfolio of 91 properties, uses the Targetvue budgeting and forecasting tool from Aptech Computer Systems. Management can predict occupancy and ADR  to drive revenue, as well as “flex” variable revenue and expenses by any metric (e.g., occupancy percentage, total revenue, etc.) to see how various initiatives might impact the bottom line. Changes in top-line revenue forecasting automatically adjust related expenses, and Concord’s upper management receives a daily report that shows how properties are tracking against budget thresholds. 

Concord also employs Targetvue business drivers in the forecasting process.
 
“These drivers are specific measurements — say, the percentage of revenue or housekeeping hours per room,” Brian Cornell, CIO, notes. “Then we use the cost of per-occupied-room expenses as a driver. [The solution] automatically applies the updated topline forecast against the relevant expenses. When managers see that they won’t achieve anticipated profitability, they use the general ledger expense detail from the solution to find areas where they can and should refine expenses.”

One platform to rule them all
Data must reach the appropriate parties in order to maximize the benefits of leveraging data and analytics. Fast-casual, 100-unit pizza chain Pieology deployed Ctuit’s RADAR Restaurant Management Solution for the purpose of consolidating sales, labor, and product mix data, explains IT Director Richard Long. Maintaining this information in a single cloud-based location and in a non-siloed fashion makes it easier for everyone to view and analyze information, paving the way for better business decisions. Easier access to all labor data and the ability to simultaneously review and analyze information pertaining to factors that affect labor, led to adjustments in staffing that shaved eight percent off the operator’s annual labor costs.

The Umstead Hotel and Spa, Cary, N.C., integrated data from its spa, dining, and reservations systems into one system, with SAS’ Master Data Management solution. The solution pulls data from all three silos, cleanses it, and integrates it into what George Viall, director, revenue management, says is a single view of customer interactions. While this has been “the biggest  competitive advantage thus far,” the aggregated view of data afforded by the single integrated platform also permits management to “see regions or customer types that might be interesting to explore as new markets,” potentially leading to business growth.

Illustrating impact
Data visualization yields insight into total impact of new programs and allows operators to pinpoint problem areas, without scrutinizing data extensively.Without clear, accessible data visualization, illustrating impact on revenue would be difficult. Conversely, harnessing data visualization would make the findings more digestible, clarifying true “cause-and-effect.”

Cornell says the perks of data visualization when utilizing Aptech’s IBM Cognos-based Execuvue Business Intelligence system include quicker, more detailed insight into how its hotels are performing on a daily basis and what might be impacting it. However, he emphasizes that such insight would not be as deep were the data visualization component of the system not designed with simplicity in mind.

“There’s an art to laying out data and a need for visual appeal without overwhelming,” Cornell asserts. A “good approach” entails choosing a system built around simple dashboards that display consolidated results, with links to dig into visual presentations of the details. Kaul concurs, adding that such techniques as alerts and gamification can be employed to drive the effectiveness and efficiency of data visualization solutions.

“Data analytics and data visualization continue to evolve, and the hospitality industry must evolve along with them,” he concludes.