How Restaurants can Cash in on Big Data

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Big data may seem the domain of the world’s biggest tech companies, but as new tools and approaches emerge, restaurants are in a prime position to engage with customers using data collection, analytics and marketing automation.

According to Rob Saker, VP of Data & Analytics at Atlanta-based NCR, the best approach to big data is understanding customer preferences. “Restaurants can identify local patterns and trends and optimize the menu or tap-handle selection, or identify emerging trends that could be extended to locations with similar customer compositions.”

So where does this customer information come from? Susan Senecal, president and CEO, A&W Food Services of Canada Inc., points to in-restaurant surveys paired with information from point of sale (POS). “We’re using sophisticated analysis of trends in this data at the system level, which [when] combined with POS data, can identify the drivers of guest satisfaction and visits. This is big data.”

Leveraging the large volume of data from the POS, A&W Canada also uses analytics to understand purchase trends. “For example, we are analyzing this data to optimize the design of our digital menu boards, allowing us to make it easier for our guests to understand our menu,” explains Senecal.

Expanding Reach
Yelp WiFi offers the ability to use Wi-Fi access as a data-collection tool, which can then be leveraged with marketing-automation tools on the backend to reach customers. Devon Wright, GM of Toronto-based Yelp Wifi is adamant restaurants are in the ideal place to create and foster a digital relationship with customers, because customers are open to receiving communication from restaurants. “Diners want to hear from their favourite local restaurant. They want to know when they have a great dish launching. They want to know the restaurant knows their name and is appreciative they’ve been there 10 times”, he says.

The key to using marketing-automation tools to reach customers is to target offerings to the customer based on the data. “Our industry is beginning to use information our guests share with us to tailor communications and offers to individual guests based on their actual preferences. This offers a terrific opportunity to give guests the most relevant communications and avoid wasting their time on irrelevant messages or offers”, adds Senecal.

NCR is investing heavily in helping customers use their understanding of customers to drive better engagement. “By using big-data capabilities, we help our customers perform micro-segmentation to target the precise consumers that are most likely to be interested in a message,” says Saker. “This delights the consumer because the message or offer is relevant to them — and they’re not spammed — while [restaurants] see a much higher return on investment.”

Be Clever, Not Creepy
Though reaching customers based on activity and preferences is an ideal way to boost sales and increase visits, it’s important to be sensitive when handling personal information. Saker stresses the importance of understanding consumers own their data and to have respect for privacy. “Instead of targeting an offer based on “your date night with your wife,” [a restaurant] might be better off suggesting “Thursday night dinner special,” he cautions.

Noting the sensitive nature of customer information, Saker suggests using data and analytics to be creative on the timing, structure of the offer and delivery of the message. “If you think it has a chance of being creepy, then avoid it,” he says.

 

Written by Andrea Victory

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