What is Big Data, and What Does it Mean to Restaurants?

24 Sep

The restaurant industry has long been a technology laggard. It may be that the business is inherently low margin (unless you’re McDonald’s and control your logistics and distribution) and restaurants don’t see value in technology; or that the industry is incredibly fragmented, with only 30% of the 1,000,000 US restaurants represented by chains, and few technology companies want to chase a thin market. Whatever the reason, on its face there seems to be plenty of opportunities to help restaurants with technology since so few use it today.

Big Data is an elusive term. Depending who you talk to, it can have different definitions. In our world Big Data involves taking lots and lots of data and using computers to find correlations that a human never could. As computers have gotten faster, databases bigger, and overall processing costs lower, we can now use Big Data to help industries that previously couldn’t afford an expensive IBM tool.

Now how can you use Big Data in the restaurant industry? Can you use it to determine what promotions are working? Can you see how well promotions work at other restaurants and if they’ll work for you? Can you find the best times to run promotions, and what promotions to run? Can you use it to forecast sales better? Can you understand how other restaurants are performing to figure out how well you’ll do? Can you optimize labor and inventory? Can you find theft? These are all topics we’ll be discussing over the next few weeks as we lay out the importance of data in running a business.

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