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Data & Analytics: New Advances & Best Practices

At MURTEC 2024: Total Intelligence, Courtney Maxedon, VP of Interactive Marketing, at Kahala Brands, and Robyn Kesler, VP of IT at Tupelo Honey Hospitality shared insights into their brands’ data journeys.
MURTEC 2024 data panel
From left: Robert Firpo-Cappiello interviews Robyn Kesler, VP of IT at Tupelo Honey Hospitality, and Courtney Maxedon, Director of Digital Marketing at Kahala Brands.

One of my personal highlights of MURTEC 2024: Total Intelligence (March 11-13 at The Paris, Las Vegas) was the opportunity to moderate our Day 1 breakout session “Data & Analytics: New Advances & Best Practices” with Courtney Maxedon, VP of Interactive Marketing, at Kahala Brands, and Robyn Kesler, VP of IT at Tupelo Honey Hospitality.

In a lively discussion that included audience Q&A, we explored how harnessing data from customer preferences, sales trends, and operational metrics, can provide actionable insights to help optimize menu offerings, streamline inventory management, and enhance marketing messaging. Perhaps most importantly, Maxedon and Kesler reiterated the importance of continually refining your business intelligence. Highlights included:

Data-Driven Decision Making

Maxedon highlighted the critical role of data in informing decision-making processes at Kahala Brands, noting that data guides all their strategic choices, from menu optimization to marketing campaigns. At Kahala, which is made up of 28 distinct brands, each brand embarks on its own unique data journey. Maxedon stressed the importance of recognizing that there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to data utilization for Resraurants.

Kesler shared insights from Tupelo Honey’s decade-long commitment to data collection and analysis. She highlighted the recent overhaul of their point-of-sale (POS) system as an important step toward leveraging clean data effectively. She also noted the hiring of their first dedicated business analyst, signaling a strategic shift toward owning and defining their data journey. She emphasized the importance of identifying growth opportunities and gaining market share by understanding the unique preferences of a restaurant's target audience. Kesler stressed that it's a long-term endeavor that requires ongoing commitment and adaptation.

Marketing Strategies

In a “digital marketing spotlight,” Maxedon addressed the value of a Customer Data Platform (CDP) and survey data to capture customer preferences like preferred communication channels.

Maxedon described Kahala’s focus on segmentation to achieve more personalized marketing strategies. They utilize segmentation in advertising to target customers based on their purchase cycle. Moreover, Kahala employs segmentation in loyalty offers and personalized communications tailored to individual customers' journeys, such as reminding them to complete their account registration or notifying them about expiring rewards. 

Maxedon emphasized that data serves as the cornerstone of their marketing strategies at Kahala Brands. Recent examples include insights from comparative tests (such as CTV vs. broadcast), to refine their approach, and analyzing key metrics like Customer Lifetime Value and Frequency, informing their focus on loyalty adoption. 

Operational Optimization

Maxedon emphasized the importance of diving deep into sales trends data to drive operational excellence. Beyond the standard same-store sales (SSS) metric, Maxedon highlighted several additional metrics provided to operations teams: comparing loyalty vs. non-loyalty customer spending to boost loyalty program adoption, analyzing crew member loyalty adoption reports, monitoring Google review scores by store to identify trends, and correlating retention rates with SSS to inform operational strategies. Maxedon also touched on the significance of auditing third-party marketplace sales, emphasizing the importance of integration for comprehensive data analysis. 

Kesler emphasized the importance of clean data, particularly for inventory management to drive informed decision-making. She stressed that ensuring data accuracy in inventory management can spark broader conversations around data management, reinforcing the interconnected nature of data utilization across various operational domains.

Best Practices & Must-Haves

Kesler stressed the importance of starting with the data already available to businesses, highlighting the need to collect good quality data, whether through self-collection or third-party sources. She advised attendees to understand their data needs and evaluate platforms based on their ability to provide relevant insights without being overly costly or complex. Additionally, she stressed the ongoing nature of data management and recommended assigning specific employees to oversee data processes, ensuring that data efforts remain meaningful and impactful.

Maxedon also stressed the importance of starting with basic data available through native analytics within digital or social channels. She highlighted the necessity of data collection through loyalty programs or e-clubs, citing the significant impact of loyalty members on customer lifetime value (CLV). She urged attendees to focus on growing loyalty and to further invest in tools based on the insights derived from their data.

Kesler recommended that restaurants prioritize finding a platform that aligns with their budget, data needs, and desired insights. She encouraged attendees to assess whether they require a third party to manage and present data or if they have in-house resources available. She also reiterated the importance of platform integration with existing databases and data sets to maximize value.

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