What the Heck is Business Intelligence? What is it and What Does it Mean for your Operation?

Jan 20 2017

Restaurant Technology Restaurant Management

Well, according to dictionary.com, Business Intelligence is defined as:

Noun:  the process of gathering information about a business or industry matter; a broad range of applications and technologies for gathering, storing, analyzing, and providing access to data to help make business decisions; abbr. BI

So how does that translate to the restaurant industry?  In general, it means that you can use historical data to take the guess work out of your decision-making.  In such a low margin industry, this is a game changer.  If you were to compare two restaurants that operated exactly the same in sales, labor, food purchases, etc., and had one run on the owner’s instinct and the other run with the power of BI, the latter restaurant would almost immediately see increased productivity and decreased costs. This would be because the restaurant could pin point problem areas – all of the guess work is removed.

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Why do I need BI?

Through our point of sale (POS) devices, we have had access to an overwhelming amount of data for some time now, but data is meaningless if we don’t understand what it is telling us.  What are those endless spreadsheets actually saying?  That’s were BI steps in.  It turns raw data into something we can understand, track, and use in order to improve. 

Most BI software providers offer real-time reports, charts and graphs that are cloud-based, making them available on almost any device.  Surprisingly, these are not as expensive as you might first think.  In fact, as these systems become more affordable and easier to adapt, smaller operators are now able to take advantage of those same systems that used to only be available to large enterprises.  Many owners/operators would argue that they pay for themselves within a few months. 

When should I implement it?

Here are a few indicators that it may be time to implement BI in your restaurant:

  • Labor for performing managerial duties (such as entering data and manually running reports) is costing more than the software fees would cost.
  • You are finding inconsistencies in data collected by managers, caused by human error.
  • You are experiencing logistical issues due to your data being stored in multiple locations.
  • Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) are consistently too high (lowering your margins), and you can’t determine why.

How do I get started?

The National Restaurant Association found through their 2016 Restaurant Technology Survey that a third of restaurant operators feel that they are lagging in technology, mostly due to concern about costs and difficult implementations.  But so many of these solutions are customizable and scalable that it doesn’t have to be that way.  You just have to take that first step. 

Even though the journey of moving to an enterprise solution might seem overwhelming, there really is a step-by-step process that can be followed.  Start by finding the right partner to help you through the process of adapting new technologies.  Then identify “the low hanging fruit”.  For example, if you have never tracked overtime – start there.  Then those profits then can be used to fund the next step – perhaps staff productivity.  Some BI providers help this process by offering modular software that can be customized to include as many or as few features as you feel are necessary.  Just keep moving through the process, and 3 years from now you will be in a much better place than you are today. 

Jennifer Day

Jennifer Day

Jennifer Day has over 16 years of experience in the marketing and communications field. Before joining the Ctuit marketing team, Jennifer previously worked at a major telecom company and was in marketing communications for a major point of sales (POS) manufacturer and software provider. She brings with her a wealth of knowledge on POS technologies, software and back office systems and the understanding of how they all work together to create a seamless customer experience while increasing profitability.