From the corporate office to the franchise, QSRs are ravenous for big data

April 3, 2019 Posted by: Brian Lee

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Whether it's at the corporate or franchise level, fast casual and quick service restaurants are increasingly investing in data and analytics solutions to gain important insights that will help them grow their businesses.

Driven by intense competition, employee turnover, and shrinking margins, they are looking for information that will help them in a number of ways: analyze costs, increase sales, improve customer experiences, manage inventory, and improve service, to name a few.

We recently sponsored the Restaurant Franchising and Innovation Summit in Louisville, Kentucky, where we talked to a variety of QSR executives, investors, and franchise owner/operators. No matter what their role, they share a common challenge when it comes to data and analytics. They have access to more data than ever, but they question how to bring together disparate pieces of information to see the big picture and make important decisions about sales, menus, inventory, staffing, advertising spend, and more.

Franchise analytics come in many shapes and sizes

Organizations are addressing this challenge from many different angles. At the corporate level, IT organizations often make significant investments on custom solutions that integrate data from corporate systems, franchisees, and third-parties to run analytics on all aspects of their business. They may offer a subset of these reports to their franchisees with analytics for their specific locations.

Depending on the organization, corporate reports usually come at a cost and offer varying degrees of granularity in the data. Often, franchisees will seek out additional solutions to supplement the data provided by corporate reports.

To that end, a variety of analytic solutions targeting the QSR market have emerged in recent years. Increasingly, POS vendors offer analytics on guest counts, customer loyalty, items sold, average check, etc. While this provides part of the picture, we heard from several people that they want to integrate that data with marketing, social media, accounting, inventory, scheduling, and other back-office systems.

Other turnkey analytics solutions, such as Wavicle's ActiveDash, offer the ability to pair POS data with social media and other types of data to get deeper, at-a-glance insights. These are typically offered as Software as a Service, or web-based applications with a monthly subscription fee.

Start small and focus on specific questions

During the RFIS event, we moderated a panel discussion with leaders from A&W, Pie Five Pizza, and CapitalSpring, where we all agreed that the best approach to analytics is to start small and grow from there.

The volume of data available today can be overwhelming unless you have clear questions you're trying to answer:

  • Where are we losing money and why?
  • How can we profitably deploy on-demand delivery services such as GrubHub and Uber Eats?
  • Why is employee turnover so high and how can we curb it?
  • How can we attract more millennials to our restaurants (and dozens of other marketing use cases)?
  • How does our social media presence impact sales?

You'll have a better idea of the data you need and where to get it, once you know the problem you're trying to solve. Once you prove the value of the data, start building out your analytics solutions include more business functions or additional data sets.

One panelist, Liz Bazner, Digital Manager at A&W Restaurants, said, "When you look at data with specific questions, it's a lot more manageable. And it's pretty cool, some of the insights you can pull out of that. It's addictive."

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