Chaos often feels like the default state of the restaurant industry.
Even for successful multi-unit restaurants and franchises, managing growth can feel a lot more like putting out fires than strategically hitting targets. You may achieve your goals, but you never feel like you’re totally in control—and you have the stress levels to prove it.
Data mastery is the new superpower for multi-unit restaurants, capable of offering a level of insight, clarity, and control that past restaurant operators couldn’t have dreamed of.
And we’re going to show you how to harness it. In this blog, we’ll cover…
- 5 pillars of data mastery that restaurants need to focus on
- How to methodically access, understand, and control your data
- Practical ways to make better business decisions
Chaos doesn’t have to be “the way things are”, and it won’t be for long. Data mastery is already helping multi-unit and enterprise restaurants take command of their operations with unprecedented efficiency.
And the best part is, you can join them without needing a PhD or overpriced consultant.
Pillar 1: Customer Data
“Location, location, location” doesn’t apply in a world where food delivery has outpaced dine-in orders and restaurant discovery happens online. Location matters less, and customer loyalty matters more.
That’s why, when third-party platforms (waitlist or delivery software) don’t give you access to your customers—that you paid them to find for you—they’re cutting you off from your most powerful growth lever.
Mastering customer data is essential to building a sustainable business and maintaining growth. Without it, you’re building a business on rented land, vulnerable to the changing whims of whatever platform acquires customers for you.
- Access — Every transaction should enhance your understanding of your customer: where they live, what they like to order, how frequently they return. This data can be automatically collated at your in-house POS, online ordering system, and loyalty program.
- Understand — Now you can find precise answers to questions that were previously left to intuition and gut feeling, like “What do our best customers have in common?” and “What do our highest-spend regulars love most about our menu?”.
- Control — Marketing efforts based on good guesses may have worked, but now that you have a data-driven direction, you can create better-targeted campaigns that offer predictable, repeatable growth.
Your customers are your greatest asset. When you master customer data, you don’t leave those essential relationships to chance.
Looking for insights on how to connect your restaurant systems to collect actionable data from all areas of your business—ordering, scheduling, and beyond? Watch our on-demand webinar to see how you can take command of your operations like never before. 👉Watch the webinar.
Pillar 2: Kitchen Data
Kitchen operations are a data black box, and it’s no wonder why. On average, only 37% of employees use a restaurant business’s ERP system, leaving operators and managers in the dark about what actually happens in the back-of-house.
Restaurants, and especially growing multi-unit and enterprise restaurants, need precise kitchen data to understand and optimize how food gets prepped and made. Without it, scaling up always feels like a risk—but with it, scaling can feel like a well-calculated plan.
- Access — Day-to-day operations should be regularly logged so you always have a clear view of recipe cook times, plate-to-table times, and inaccurate orders.
- Understand — With cleaner kitchen data, you’re able to see patterns that were previously hidden and answer questions, like “Which dishes take so long to make, that the margins are depleted by labor costs?” or “Which recipes are most likely to create a negative customer experience by taking too long?”.
- Control — Now you can identify the dishes that hold your team back from greater efficiency levels, then make adjustments to recipes or processes to help the kitchen staff work smarter (and optimize labor costs in the process).
Kitchen data has been relatively neglected by the restaurant industry, but the success stories coming from pioneers of kitchen efficiency are quite compelling—and it’s awakening more and more to the power of kitchen data mastery.
Pillar 3: Staff Data
Capturing staff data is an essential part of running a food business today, but existing processes are more about completing payroll than gaining business insight. And when you don’t see patterns and trends in your staff data, you’re leaving opportunities for better hiring and staff management on the table.
- Access — You likely already collect most of the data you need: scheduled hours, hours worked, training received, and labor costs.
- Understand — When you combine your staff data with your kitchen and operations data, that’s where new insights are unlocked, helping you answer questions like “Who are my most efficient employees?” and “Which new employees have completed their training?”.
- Control — When it’s clear who your most valuable employees are, you’re capable of modeling training and hiring procedures after them to set—and achieve—higher employee standards (and lower labor costs).
When you can easily measure employee performance and costs in real-time—rather than making subjective guesses—you’re able to turn the headaches of hiring and staff management into high-performing, scalable teams.
Pillar 4: Inventory Data
No restaurant system has been more haunted by the inefficiencies of gut feeling and intuition than food costing and inventory. Most restaurants—including many owned by massive corporations—run their food costing and inventory via pen and paper or outdated spreadsheets. And it’s a huge source of waste.
Somewhere between four and ten percent of the food purchased by a restaurant goes to waste before it even reaches the customer. That’s money down the drain, raising recipe costs and destroying ROI. By mastering your inventory data, you can minimize waste and generate higher margins with confidence.
- Access — Food costing and inventory tracking go hand-in-hand, and ideally are managed by the same platform. Key data includes recipe metadata, recipe costs, profit margins, inventory trends, waste trends, and food waste percentage.
- Understand — When you can clearly measure food waste, then see how it impacts your food costs and margins, you’re able to run experiments and answer questions like, “What ingredients produce the most waste, and why?” and “If we nix this high-waste ingredient, what does that do to our profit margins?”.
- Control — Robust food data unlocks levers that have never been available for restaurants before. Now you can optimize individual recipes for higher margins and cut food waste with smarter purchasing, then track the results in real-time.
When you extrapolate the advantages of real-time costing and inventory across a multi-unit or franchise network, the gains add up quickly.
Pillar 5: Operations Data
Gone are the days of clunky spreadsheet reports for individual locations that take hours to review—at least, they should be. Modern reporting tech means multi-unit operators, franchise owners, and other high-level managers are capable of seeing operational data in new ways.
- Access — Bring your cash flow management, financial reporting, and traffic analytics into a single dashboard where you can see trends for individual stores or the entire business.
- Understand — Disjointed spreadsheets have always made it hard to connect the dots and make data-driven decisions, but with your core operations data in a single place, you’re able to answer questions like “What regions present the greatest growth opportunity?” and “What do our least profitable locations have in common?”.
- Control — With a 360-degree view of your business health and direction, you’re capable of finding the areas where small improvements can lead to meaningful impacts, strengthening weak links, and building a business with a solid foundation.
These cross-location insights reveal the impact of the other four pillars. If you get them right, you’ll see the results in your operations data.
The Problem: Disjointed Software Won’t Get You There
We’ve all seen it: a franchise owner uses twelve tools to run their operation—ranging from staff management to online ordering to food costing—but the data from each tool is siloed off, unable to communicate with all the data from other tools.
This is why, despite more powerful technology, chaos still reigns in the restaurant industry.
And if 2020 has proven anything, it’s that clean data (and the incredible insight and control it enables) is the most powerful way to move forward in the ever-evolving restaurant industry.
Ready to take command of your business? Watch our on-demand webinar to see how multi-unit franchise operators like you have integrated systems to uncover insights and take command like never before.