The restaurant industry is highly competitive and small businesses can sometimes feel swallowed up by much larger companies, especially on a local level. However, for quick-service and fast casual restaurants, leveraging data available to them can help gain a competitive advantage.

When it comes to the restaurant industry, businesses have been producing and hording an impressive volume of data for years. Today, we can track:

  • Customer profiles
  • Items ordered
  • Tweets and Facebook posts
  • Transactions
  • Employee Shifts
  • Promotion Performance

…just to name a few. It is said, by 2020 – less than a year away – there will be 5,200 GB of data for every person on Earth – and most restaurateurs sitting on a fair share of that data. It is a gold mine waiting to be tapped into. Industry experts believe that about a 7 percent lift in top-line and 2 to 3 percent improvement of bottom-line can be achieved if the data is used well.

While it wasn’t so long ago that big organizations had more manpower and resources to put behind big data analytics, smaller quick-serve operators can now also easily use this information thanks to newer technology. Compared with lesser options from a few years ago, technology is now more accessible regardless of expertise, budget or size, meaning that everyone can compete on the same level.

Here are just a few ways to leverage data to drive business results:

Personalize Offerings: Research proves that consumers are expecting, if not demanding, highly personalized experiences. A survey by Accenture found that an astonishing 82% of consumers prefer loyalty programs that are tailored to their specific profile. And the good news is, for those businesses that can deliver, customers are typically willing to spend more when they receive a personalized service.

Offering a personalized experience in a busy, crowded, speedy casual dining environment can be incredibly challenging. However, many customers place identical or very similar orders each time they order in your eatery or online – all this data is stored and easily found in a restaurants POS or CRM. Using this data, each time a guest visits online or in person, provides the opportunity to customize greetings, offers, menu suggestions and more that are all relevant to them.

Generic mass-marketing messaging to under-differentiated audiences limits consumer engagement, but by analyzing data and creating bespoke offers is a win-win situation – consumers enjoy a personalized service and businesses increase their sales. “Brands that use actionable, permission-based data to provide personalized, relevant offers and experiences will develop an in-depth understanding of their respective customer bases and be rewarded with significantly higher conversion rates and longer-lasting customer relationships” Richard Lack, Gigya EMEA Director of Sales.

Manage your menu: In the past, chefs and operators made menu changes based on the seasons, product availability and low sell-through. But with the use of food and beverage analysis and real-time data restaurants can identify what the most popular or most frequently purchased menu items are, as well as which largely unpopular items they can cut to save costs without much protest from customers.

With real-time data showing exactly what food products customers prefer you can make educated decisions about food purchases that are more suited to diners’ actual needs. Optimizing food purchases and your menu in this way positively affects your bottom line and increases sales.

Improve Operations: QSR and fast casuals are patronized for their quick service. Data can help improve the speed of service, even at high volume. Using analytics, restaurants can monitor the speed of service at individual POS and drive-thru’s in real-time. This data can help restaurants understand turnaround times, pinpoint any choke points in consumer traffic flow and uncover opportunities for improvement.

Similarly, this data can also be used to understand the daily ebb and flow of traffic and activity i.e. identify the busiest or highest traffic volumes versus your slowest times allowing you to predict demand and in turn helping you to optimize HR management through strategic staffing.


Data use can help operators more confidently implement changes and improvements that reduce costs and improve operations. While the above are just a few ways data can drive business results, the key is to look at existing data systems and ask: how can I access and make better use of the information I’m already collecting?

Data will only increase in importance. Those who are data-literate are the ones who will be able to grab the growth and profits that the sector has to offer.