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Why Restaurants Need Data Now More Than Ever

As hard as it is for any restaurant owner to compete, multi-chain restaurants face some unique challenges. The biggest and most obvious one is ensuring consistency in all areas of the business across every restaurant.

Restaurants are opening all across America with unprecedented speed, and you might assume that means the majority of them are wildly successful. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

2016 was the worst restaurant year since the recession.

Applebee’s closed nearly 100 restaurants in 2017.

The FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) now requires food handlers to document specific datasets AND make them available on demand.

According to QSR magazine, “2016 was the worst restaurant year since the recession.” All you have to do is read the headlines to confirm that sentiment. Red Robin recently fired ALL of their busboys from all 570 locations, due to the increase in minimum wage. After an expensive investment in wood-fired grills, Applebee’s closed nearly 100 restaurants in 2017 and plans to close at least 80 more in 2018.

Experts say the restaurant market has reached a saturation point. With the selection of restaurants growing at breakneck speed, and the increase in meal kit and in-home delivery services, there are a plethora of options for consumers to choose from.

As hard as it is for any restaurant owner to compete, multi-chain restaurants face some unique challenges. The biggest and most obvious one is ensuring consistency in all areas of the business across every restaurant. Customers must be able to walk into any location and order items that taste the same—anywhere in the country. Internal and external facings have to be uniform, and employees must also provide a universal customer experience.

In order to achieve this level of consistency, multi-chain restaurants must have access to a vast restaurant performance dataset. And it’s not just corporate executives who need this data—the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) now requires food handlers to document specific datasets AND make them available on demand.

So How Can Restaurants Access the Data They Need to Survive?

Multi-chain restaurants have countless processes and standards to support nationwide consistency, each with varying degrees of effectiveness. What these organizations need now is to take those processes and connect them to an execution management platform that provides real-time feedback.

Here are a few important ways a flexible solution can support the success of multi-chain restaurants:

01.Offer One Centralized System to Capture and Evaluate Restaurant Performance

Restaurant executives have access to systems that monitor quality assurance and quality control activities. However, they may not have the flexibility to oversee marketing promotions and loss prevention in those same systems. Execution management software can combine these functions and provide a one-stop shop for all data inputs.

Brand Assessments

Brand assessments are the perfect example. When franchise business consultants (FBCs) show up for their quarterly review of a restaurant, they may be showing up completely blind. Unless they’ve done the brand assessment before and remember prior results, they’re not going to know how that particular franchise measured up.

Though restaurant executives have access to brand assessment data online, they may not have a format that easily compares all locations to a national brand standard. And what’s more, the data they don’t have may be causing a real problem. Did all locations hang up posters advertising the new promotional menu item? What’s happening with the loss prevention program relative to cash handling? Many of these inputs are just as important—and more time-sensitive—than quarterly brand assessments.


And lastly, the FDA is now routinely asking for records of food handling practices. Rather than trying to pull all the pieces together from disparate sources, restaurants can combine all of their internal and external data requirements into one system for easy reference.

By funneling all oversight processes into an execution management solution, restaurants can bring everything under the same umbrella. This means historical context for FBCs, flexibility for new data sets, and easy reporting retrieval for outside parties like the FDA.

02.Provide Actionable Reporting That Empowers Executives in Real Time

Gathering all that mission-critical data in one place is the first step in the right direction. The next step is formatting the data so it is easy to consume, extract, and act upon.

If you’ve ever tried to manipulate a dataset in a spreadsheet, you know exactly how difficult this part of the equation can be. Having the data alone isn’t enough. Effective execution management platforms take relevant data and configure it in an easy-to-digest, actionable way.

Between your restaurant’s brand assessments, operational goals, quality assurance and quality control tasks, marketing promotions, loss prevention practices, and employee training, there are probably several thousand questions for each restaurant to answer. How can you filter that data down to actionable insights? To start, determine specific goals for each area of the business and what data points would be helpful to most efficiently reach those goals.

For example, your restaurant chain’s dining rooms must maintain a high level of cleanliness. Based on the questions you ask about the dining room, you’ve decided the standard for cleanliness is 90 percent attainment. After reviewing all locations, you notice that your airport location only has 85 percent attainment. With that information, you can drill down further. Which specific questions were answered incorrectly? Were the trash cans overflowing, tables dirty, or spills not cleaned up fast enough?

Using this collected data, you can follow up with the restaurant manager to answer your questions and make sure the location is at 90 percent attainment for the future. And the same goes for the new FDA FSMA regulation—once you’ve configured the questions, you can retrieve food handling data for FDA inspectors on demand.

When it Comes to Restaurant Management, Consistency is Paramount

We often take for granted what goes on behind the scenes to ensure a consistent experience across multi-chain restaurants. It’s definitely down to the details. And those details (though exhaustive) can be managed with efficiency using an execution management platform.

One central data repository, accessible by various types of users in real time, can make all the difference when trying to survive in today’s flooded restaurant market.

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