Restaurant Analytics: How to Use Data to Boost Sales

Restaurant Analytics: How to Use Data to Boost Sales

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Grow Orders, Save Time & Eliminate Tablet Chaos
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The world of restaurants has changed dramatically in recent years. Where our daily struggles included handwritten tickets, laborious inventory days, and cash transactions, we now have technology to assist. Tickets and inventory are managed by software and cards are king — which has meant that gathering restaurant data analytics is more important than ever before.

Luckily, it’s also easier than ever before.

Understanding Restaurant Analytics

Before we can dive into the how and the why, we need to lay some groundwork. What specifically are restaurant analytics and, importantly, why do we care?

What are Restaurant Analytics?

While it may seem like the obvious answer, restaurant analytics is a term for the data that you can (and likely do) gather on a daily basis. Restaurant data analytics can vary from joint to joint by how the data is gathered, how intensely, and how much. 

At the end of the day, though, it’s all numbers.

Why are Restaurant Analytics Important?

Restaurant analytics are far more important than they’re often given credit for being. This is because they offer an insight into the inner workings of your restaurant and, when used properly, feel like magic to implement into action. 

By properly gathering data, you’re able to learn more about your customers: what makes them tick, what they like (and don’t), and how to get their attention — all of which are incredibly valuable.

But what do we need to look for when gathering restaurant data analytics?

Key Metrics in Restaurant Data Analytics

The first part of any struggle is to understand what it is that you’re looking at. As such, it feels only right to break down the most common forms that restaurant data analytics can take.

Sales Data

First things first, let’s look at what you most likely already gather in your restaurant — sales data. This stuff is sheer gold for a broad variety of reasons, but the largest of which is that you can see what works and, importantly, when. 

Take a peek at a sales report and simply soak in what you see. When do you seem to get busiest? When are you the slowest? Are there specific menu items that sell more during specific times? Each of these questions allows you to take that information, internalize it, and apply it to your daily operations.

It allows you to schedule more predictively, keeping a more hands-on approach during busy times and fewer people to crowd the kitchen when it’s slow. And if you notice that specific items sell faster, say, from 3-6 p.m., now you know that it’s time to run a happy hour (and what to run).

Customer Data

Customer data is another type of information that can be quite handy when dealing with restaurant analytics. While this is a bit harder to gather, it (if readily provided) can be a game-changer. Whether you gather customer data through a loyalty program, newsletter list, or good old fashioned conversation, it can offer you an insight into why your customers do what they do.

Something as seemingly small as a birthday can allow you to plan to be more hospitable during a guest’s special visit and, in turn, gain a repeat customer in the process. 

Inventory Data

Inventory data should be your managers’ bread and butter. Every day, both Front and Back-of-House (FoH, BoH) should regularly check their inventory data. It will inform them about how much backstock you have (if any), what needs to be sold first to prevent waste, and is ultimately one of the most important aspects of running any kitchen. 

After all, you can’t make and sell food if you’re out of butter, carrots, or (heaven forbid) dishes!

Staff Performance Data

When the time comes to give out performance bonuses, you’ll be thankful for staff performance data. This is the form of restaurant analytics whose form is the most applicable to your restaurant staff, rather than the restaurant as a whole. 

Things like how each server tends to sell (or not sell) menu items can help you figure out who needs coaching, who should be training others, and when it may be time for a team meeting. And ticket times can show how cohesive your kitchen staff truly is; if times are rising, it’s likely time to look at what can be done to bring the kitchen back onto the same page.

Tools and Technologies for Restaurant Data Analytics

Now that we know what we’re gathering, it’s time to talk about what we use to do the gathering. Today, the name of the game is technology — let’s dive in.

Point of Sale (POS) Systems

The POS system is a mainstay in just about every modern kitchen. It’s your home base for sales, information, analytics, and more — but it’s not really used to its greatest potential in many restaurants. These systems are great because they gather real-time information for you without the need to sit and observe every interaction like a hawk.

The sales numbers and staff performance data we mentioned above will, more likely than not, already be available to you right now (whether you knew that or not). By taking the time to dig through your POS and learn its inner workings, you’ll have one more tool to make gathering restaurant data analytics that much easier.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software

In recent years, we’ve seen the rise of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software in restaurants. At first, it started as a tactic that was aimed purely at marketing, but in recent years, we’ve seen the success of CRM in more than marketing. For the uninitiated, a high-quality CRM will help you keep track of customer data in an easy-to-navigate platform. 

Ultimately, this means that you’ll be more prepared to gather and (importantly) use customer data for your restaurant analytics. This means that you’ll be better equipped to serve your customers, more in-touch with them, and overall readier to offer the awesome hospitality you’re known for.

Inventory Management Systems

Inventory management systems come in a massive range of forms. What matters is their use; specifically, how we can use them for restaurant analytics. Inventory management systems are designed to manage your inventory, but more importantly, to keep track of spending and ordering habits related to your inventory. 

They’re designed to make the process of taking and keeping inventory easier while simplifying the act of gathering numbers on any given aspect of your inventory. Without an inventory management system, you’ll likely be stuck manually checking every crevice of the restaurant and walk-in, noting down everything you can. With one, though, you can simply open a digital report of what’s been ordered in the past one, two, or even three months, set reminders to order your usual, and more.

Additional Analytics Tools

There are countless other tools one can use to gather restaurant data analytics. Some software can be used to track historically busy days for your restaurant and plan accordingly, and others can help track marketing data from your customers. Others still allow you to track specific employee performance (often wrapped into scheduling software), ensuring you can properly coach or commend those who need it.

Ultimately, data is something that we all gather every day; by taking the time to learn from it (using the proper tools), we can make great strides toward healthier, more efficient restaurants.

Best Practices for Using Restaurant Data Analytics

How do we actually use all of this information? 

Regularly Review and Update Data

One of the most useful things you can do as a restaurant manager or owner is to simply look around regularly. While I’m certain that you do that physically, how often do you actually look at the data that you gather daily? If the answer isn’t “monthly” (at least), then there’s a problem. This data can be used to make both sweeping, big-picture changes as well as smaller fixes for the day-to-day.

By regularly reviewing your data and keeping it current you can use the power of restaurant analytics to improve labor costs, boost sales, train staff, and more. 

Train Your Staff

Once again, if you’re reading this, it’s likely that you’re a restaurant owner or manager. If that’s the case, then restaurant training is a massive part of your job. Love it or hate it, we have to train, and that means that we should be as efficient as possible. By looking at your labor data, you’re able to keep track of who performs, who doesn’t, and more.

For example, If you have two FoH employees, one star seller and one who’s underperforming, you can use this information in one of a few ways. First, you could schedule the two of them to work together more often, allowing the underperformer to learn from your better employee. 

The simpler approach is one-on-one coaching, and you can use restaurant data analytics here, too. Take the time to look at this theoretical server’s sales numbers by time and item — are there patterns? Do they sell some things well, only struggling with specials or new items? If so, give them a refresher and talk with your kitchen about explaining and plating specials for FoH.

Put simply, restaurant data analytics are a great tool for training, as they give a bit of a “hard and fast” look at what’s going well and what’s not in your restaurant.

Protect Customer Data

This should go without saying, but we’re going to say it anyway. The data that you gather for restaurant analytics should not be stored haphazardly, nor should you take its safety lightly. If you gather customer data, it’s your duty to keep that safe. Take your time to properly backup and encrypt any data that you store online, keep any hard copies in a safe place, and don’t sell your customers’ data.

Leveraging Data for Marketing and Promotions

As mentioned previously, restaurant analytics are a fantastic tool for marketing. They allow you insight into your customers’ wants and needs and, crucially, they give you a way to improve the customer experience. Keep a keen eye on what seems to be your customers’ favorite items, their favorite times of day and days, and (if possible) more. 

You can use that information to plan specials on drinks or food. I’ve seen several businesses that realize they’re popular with other chefs — and what did they do with this information? They learned when the most restaurants in their city are closed (usually Mondays), and they ran a Service Night. Anyone to provide a food or liquor handler’s card got a discount, free item, or both — and just like that, they gained a new (large) following through restaurant data analytics.

Grow Orders, Save Time & Eliminate Tablet Chaos

Integrate your delivery apps and online orders with your POS and consolidate them into a single tablet. Helping you reduce order issues, grow your sales, and eliminate delivery headaches.

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