Why is data important to Food businesses?

Two words: Business intelligence.

Every business owner needs intelligence to make better decisions.
Better decisions than the competition, better decisions than yesterday.

This is exactly why we need data. Advancements technology and analytics has brought us to the age of data-driven decision making. Accurate insights about our business empower decision makers to make better decisions in every aspect of our food business.

Example 1. Mapping out consumption trends within an outlet tells us the type of marketing campaigns to run. Mapping peak and lull periods trigger us to devise strategies to maximise our operations and offering. Based on the data, an F&B operator may choose to run early bird promotions, pre-dinner promotions, push out a hi-tea menu or even tweak happy-hours timings. Alternatively, with the same information, the outlet could look into changing shift hours to optimise labour.

Example 2. By mapping recipes to kitchen inventory, and tracking customer orders over a period of time, we could zero in on an accurate breakdown of our food costs and our purchase cycle. A good system can optimise the purchase cycle and even automate ordering processes.

Previously obtaining these data will take a lot of manual tracking, analysis, and forecasting by staff and management. Even then, the implementation would involve a fair amount of trial & error backed by a mixture of gut feel and guesswork. There could be significant opportunity cost by the time we derive at the conclusions.

Which brings us to our next question:
How to obtain the data?

In spite of technology developments, food and beverage have remained a largely manual business. At the end of the day, we all prefer service by an actual person, and food prepared by a human pair of hands.

Step 1. Work with an experienced industry partner to determine what metrics matter and what business intelligence is essential for the existing business. Eg. consumption trends amongst differing customer segments, what KPIs are important and how to make them measurable, what costs are invisible.

Step 2. Implement a workflow that marries both technology and people together. For new setups, the management needs to adopt a humanistic workflow that enables the tech infrastructure to seamlessly support staff on the ground. When it comes to existing F&B setups, employees naturally reject or look past technology, especially if they are weighed down by higher priorities during busy periods – if the new technology is an additional hassle to existing operations. This means besides training, there needs to be a catch for workers – eg. using the new system will automate manual processes like input, tracking or even budget planning, which previously required tedious excel input, thus reducing work stress and potentially gives shorter working hours.

What then to look for in a tech partner?

The above means one can’t simply buy an expensive system and assume it will gel seamlessly into overall operations. Remember: technology is the slave, not the master. Technology is supposed to make our work easier, not have our work defined by technology.

One way tech partners generally come in is via the form of Point-Of-Sales (POS) or inventory management systems. While generally, all these systems generate a report, good reports are those that actually crunch the data for actionable insights.

Otherwise, this will add to the management’s workload to learn and analyze data themselves. Excellent partners will empower business owners with business intelligence that may require customisation.

Remember, F&B is a highly customised industry, with outfits requiring different solutions and implementations. There is rarely a one-size-fits-all solution.

This means that to be a reliable technology partner in the F&B industry, one needs to be cross-disciplined with both extensive F&B experience and technology background – a hard mix to find and excel in.

This is exactly why Chef At Work is making strategic investments into software that automate and integrate business processes for F&Bs directly. With a decade of experience in helping large and small-scale clients successfully set up their food businesses, we are now actively investing in and developing technology that will empower our clients to take their business to the next level.