The Food Business’ Appetite for Big Data

Restaurants in the US do not only want to make it through the tough times. They are looking to big data to help perfect their dish, their service, and perhaps even their memory of customers’ names.

Tech startups such as Salido in New York are creating programs that consolidate all of a restaurant’s operations on a real-time interface, helping food businesses to shop, cook, and serve more efficiently.

The right data makes the right recommendations

To meet diner demands and better handle diner traffic, restaurants are turning to tech wizards. Tech wizards are cooking up integrated menus of operations from shopping to cooking to reservations and serving. For the techies, the holy grail is as simple as ‘the right data’.

The right data will help the restaurant manager identify types of customers, his or her favourite drink, anticipate his or her waiting time, make better recommendations, and know the right amount of alcohol to serve.

All of this has to come from a huge, huge platter of Big Data.

Fresh data to crunch on

From outside the tech kitchen, comes the valuable ingredients — up-to-the-minute data on sales, customers, staff performance, and competitors. A multitude of startups and established companies are offering to deliver big data on everything to do with food.

Tech wizards then merge these data with the restaurant’s own social data from Facebook, and Twitter as well as information from tracking apps, reservation systems, review sites, even weather reports to feed into their programmes and get the answers.

These tech wizards are in demand. They are being hired in the way head chefs used to be — but still, with a pinch of salt. As the US food business is predicted to have a flat growth this year, four out five restaurateurs are scrambling to embrace technology while existing users are worried they are still behind in terms of data.

Quenching the food business’ thirst for tech

Silicon Valley has the innate ability to spot inefficiencies in the world and come forth to fix it. The food space is a new industry to disrupt. It’s an empty salad bowl waiting to be filled. And the techies can’t wait to help you decide which mix and sauce go best together.

Fewer cooks won’t spoil the broth

Sales figures and notes on customer preferences used to be recorded on different software. All these past records have built up to become an unfathomable and unsearchable pile of files in across different untranslatable software systems.

Now it’s out with the old tech, and in with the new. Goodbye multiple softwares. Hello one integrated system.

Everything is now integrated into one system, with one password, with real-time access across all devices in the kitchen, at the office and on the mobile phone. One such user is Wichcraft chain of sandwich shops.

With easier access and everything on one page, it might be easier than before to remember most of the customers’ names. It’s like bringing the restaurant back to its good old days before the business grew big. Now you start to remember faces again, from their profile pics.

Finding the right balance

With the world of diners and competitive restaurants on big data, tech seems the obvious way to go. However, many restaurants are still wary. The avalanche of food data streaming into your system can be overwhelming, to the point it confusion and distraction. For a start, staring at the screen every other minute and forgetting to establish eye contact instead with customers must have happened more times than we think.

The idea is to find the right balance — of tech and table talk. Food has always been about balance and how it is run should be too.

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