Leave Big Data to the Big Restaurant Chains

Big data is the buzzword of the moment, hailed as the way to mine information from the millions of transactions that businesses conduct every day.

That’s great for mega-chains like McDonald’s, Subway and Taco Bell. Big data services sift through thousands of gigabytes of data and identify key patterns within that jumble. But they can be pricy and ineffective for smaller operators that experience only a fraction of transactions in comparison.

“Don’t use an elephant gun as a fly swatter,” data expert Mark Herschberg says of leveraging big data programs to solve the needs of independent restaurants.

Instead, Herschberg, chief technology officer of Madison Logic, a New York-based data solutions company, and other experts, say independent restaurants and smaller multi-unit operators can use standard analytics tools. Better yet: They’re more affordable and offer a good return on investment.

“Some mom-and-pops are scared off by analytics, but they shouldn’t be,” says Jesse Marshall, vice president of Native Foods Cafe, a healthy fast casual concept with locations in five states plus Washington, D.C. “They don’t have to buy into this huge expensive infrastructure anymore. Everything is integrated now.”

Today’s analytics tools collect more than information; they create a holistic picture of sales, inventory and reputation that can help remedy a host of problems. Take a closer look.

PROBLEM: HOW DO I IMPROVE CUSTOMER LOYALTY? SOLUTION: ANALYZE ORDERING PATTERNS AND CREATE CUSTOMIZED PROMOTIONS.

Matthew Joseph, information technology director of national chain Fig & Olive, relies on Venga, an analytics tool that links point-of-sales data with OpenTable reservations to determine what customers are ordering.

With Venga, Fig & Olive creates profiles of guests to customize dining experiences. The information might include food allergies, wine preferences and the frequency dessert is ordered. This data is useful for personalized service that turns guests into devoted regulars.

PROBLEM: HOW DO I MAXIMIZE PROFITS FROM MY WINE AND BEVERAGE LIST?SOLUTION: TRACK WINE PRICES AND BEVERAGE ORDERS IN REAL TIME.

At Rattan Pan-Asian Bistro in Houston, owner Ron Chen allows guests to swipe through more than 250 different wine selections on an iPad equipped with an analytics tool called Uncorkd. Uncorkd allows customers to search wines by keyword, read taste descriptions and view images.