Ryan Williams
Jeremy Julian

Personalization: Using the Data Gold Mine

December 14, 2017

How do restaurants adapt and stay current with the ever-changing market?


The answer: data.


Data is the engine that powers restaurant innovation and will continue to do in 2018 and beyond. Whether it’s consumer metrics from in-unit sensors or a “smart” refrigerator that helps identify kitchen inefficiencies, restaurant operations will become even more data-driven.


So our advice: if you are not looking at the plethora data at your hands, then you are certainly missing out.


“Data matters more than ever,” in the restaurant of the future, says Richard Coraine, chief of staff for Union Square Hospitality Group. It will help operators track diner preferences to deliver personalized service—and targeted marketing. Data, in the form of applicant tracking and onboarding metrics, will improve employee retention. Software modeling will power shift-size scheduling. Data-tracking kitchen equipment will make sure walk-ins stay at temperature and ingredients have full traceability.


Like we stated in our previous article, ‘What’s on the 2018 Restaurant Technology Horizon,’ operators will be able to recommend and serve personalized menu items based on each customers’ purchasing behavior and lifestyle. Actually, it turns out, some operators already are. At Chicago’s Alinea, for example, “If you’ve been there two times, I can predict when you’ll come back a third time,” says Nick Kokonas, the restaurant’s co-owner. (It’s 74 days, on average, after the second visit, Kokonas says, after which time the restaurant’s computer system automatically sends diners an email saying Alinea looks forward to welcoming them again soon.)


When properly used, data can lead to hyper-personalized menu suggestions, tailored literally down to a consumer’s DNA, Thoresen says, adding, “We’re moving from customization to personalization.”


The collection of consumer data will always be a testy subject, however, we willingly give out tons of information everyday via social media. So, that concern may fade away as it becomes more ingrained in our society. However, restaurant innovation experts predict those privacy concerns will fade as more data leads to improved service.


Mediterranean chain Cava has been an industry leader in gathering data to inform operational decisions. Sensors placed along the lines of some units led to a shrinking of menu items, reduced congestion and speedier ordering. All of the chain’s software vendors must feature a compatible API that allows data to stream to Cava’s cloud servers, letting raw data be turned into actionable information, says Brett Schulman, the chain’s CEO. “We don’t view technology as replacing the human element, but as enhancing the human experience,” he says. “This will allow us to be more sophisticated, to meet the needs of each guest.”


Most operators are sitting on top of a tremendous amount of data that is going underutilized. Take a moment to look at the your restaurants’ resources and see what kind data you could use. You may be sitting on buried treasure and not even know.


Need to pass the time between our next post? Then check out Custom Business Solutions for all your restaurant technology needs!

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