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How Restaurants Can Use Data to Grow Their Business

“A well-run restaurant is like a winning baseball team. It makes the most of every crew member’s talent and takes advantage of every split-second opportunity to speed up service,” said David Ogilvy, whose meticulous research into consumer habits gave him the nickname “Father of Advertising.”

However, it is not just the talent of the staff along with the high-quality food and service that helps grow a restaurant business. Savvy business owners use data to increase their profit margin and this is only possible if you harness the full potential of your POS system.

Harnessing the power of data analytics

The restaurant business is an incredibly competitive industry and restauranteurs cannot afford to make even the simplest of mistakes that could lead to a reduction in their profit margin. Getting the personnel rota wrong, so that staff are scheduled in at times when customer reservations are not at their peak, nibbles away at any profit. Over-ordering of stock or failure to manage the inventory will do the same. With a comprehensive POS solution, equipped with a restaurant online ordering system and data analytics, these issues can be solved and more importantly, you can obtain an abundance of information about your customers and their spending habits, at the touch of a button.

What are data analytics?

Each time that a staff processes an order and takes payment, they are creating data about the individual consumer.

On the social media side, there are business tools provided by Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter which will measure your customer engagement. On the POS side, there are reports which can help you measure your efficiency.

The data that is gathered by restaurant POS systems will assist in your understanding of how your staff are performing, show spending patterns of consumers, profitability of restaurant dishes and much more, allowing you to see the areas that perform well and the side of the business where you need to make changes. Even the time it takes to turn a table can be collated and turned into at-a-glance insight, allowing you to make informed and better business decisions. This is what is meant by data analytics and all of this is working away in the background if you are using the right restaurant point of sale system. Let’s take a look at how this information can be used to grow your business.

  • Maximise staff resources and sales

Wages and managing staff turnover are one of the top operational costs to any business. If you know how each member of staff performs in terms of their strengths and weaknesses, you can make informed choices about staff rotas and where to focus your energies in terms of training. Your restaurant analytics will show who manages to serve customers in the optimum time, and who sells the most in terms of food and drink, which you might like to cross-reference with your own social media tools to see who is mentioned in reviews online in terms of good service.

If one staff member is selling the majority of higher priced beverages such as wine or cocktails for example, look at what their technique is for doing this and buddy them with a staff member whose sales pitch is not giving such high returns. Schedule your best staff at peak times or when you are organising special events so that they can be assigned to any VIP reservations in order to maximise the customer’s restaurant experience and boost sales.

If you are having a high turnover of staff, you can see if this is down to the lowest performing team members and work with them to upskill them and find out how to increase their job satisfaction so they don’t leave. Staff will always move on, but you can minimise staff turnover which in turn reduces your advertising and training costs, using the money saved to put back into the business.

  • Strong digital marketing

Are new customers coming in and are existing customers coming back to your restaurant? It is really important to have these two key performance indicators at your fingertips and the only way to capture that information precisely is through your point of sale system. Once you have that information you can review your marketing efforts but in a focussed manner. New campaigns, special offers or individual loyalty programmes all take time, money and effort but you will only be able to accurately see if you have a return on these campaigns, with a loyalty POS.

Tracking of all your marketing campaigns then allows you to produce comparable sales data between each campaign, to see if you are wasting your time or if you have been able to grow the business. If it is the former, then change the strategic direction to a profitable promotion which can be anything from a fixed weekly Happy Hour to an annual Valentine day special. Rewarding customers and making them feel special by sending them vouchers with a 2 for 1 offer on their birthday or a free glass of wine is something that they will remember and this will then promote return customers.

  • Speed up service and table turnover

Customers have so much choice when it comes to where to eat, drink and socialise so make it as easy as possible for them to reserve a table, place their order and pay for it. A reservation POS system allows them to check table availability and avoid waiting around for one to come free, particularly attractive for those who are on a tight schedule or shorter lunchbreak. Tabletop payment and online menu orders mean a quicker turnaround of tables, which frees up staff to look after even more customers, boosting sales without making the dining experience feel rushed.

If ordering online for takeout, then use data gathered for return customers to offer them their favourite dessert to be added to their order. Online orders should show extras such as fries or salads, as accompaniment to the main meal or a choice of sauces or dips to boost the total order price.

For special events or larger dining parties, being able to book the table you want, when you want it, is an added benefit for customers. When making the reservation online, they can specify if it is for a special event allowing you to tailor the dining experience to their needs, so you can offer relevant products such as special desserts or wine. The POS system will also allow staff to merge and split the bill even between card payments and cash, speeding up the payment process.

The data analytics will show you which areas are more profitable or times of day when there is downtime, allowing you to accurately schedule in staffing, saving money on the wages bill. If you currently have the same number of kitchen staff and servers across the week, the data will highlight exactly where any losses are occurring so you can review staffing numbers.

  • Control over the inventory and better menu planning

Stock taking and accurate inventory control means less food wasted in the kitchen or spoiled by over-ordering stock you cannot sell. Your POS system makes staff accountable for how they order, cook, deliver or serve each and every item ordered. The inventory list shows what supplies have been delivered and ingredients you are holding on site but if you create a food wastage sheet as well, this highlights which ingredients you need to reduce buying in. A food waste sheet which has the time and date, the item, the reason for the wastage and staff name, means you can monitor where the loss of profit is going. Staff also become very careful with how they plate up or store or cook that particular item, as you require them to update the food wastage record.

You can also use data to see which menu item is selling well and which has your customers coming back for more. Often, it is assumed that the bestselling item is going to be the one that is the most profitable, however, your data analytics could tell a different story. If your highest turnover menu item shows it is ordered by customers who don’t come back again, then it is time to investigate why this is happening. Or another menu could be a real magnet getting a higher than average percentage of return customers, so you need to rethink how you promote this to maximise sales.

With all the various ways to grow your business, there is no excuse not to maximise the power of your POS system and the data that it is gathering on your behalf. Failure to understand what is happening to your restaurant business by reviewing all the information you have at your fingertips, means letting potential profit slip through your hands. Utilising that knowledge will help you reap the rewards and see your business go from strength to strength.

If you’re ready to create or optimise your online menu, and open up your business to online sales, and takeaway and delivery functionality, speak to our friendly and experienced team here at Abacus. We are currently providing our Online Ordering platform with NO upfront cost and $0 ongoing monthly fees on top of your regular Abacus POS subscription. The only additional cost to you is a small transaction fee.

Submit your interest here or email us at and our product specialists will reach out to you to discuss how we can help your business in these tough times. Alternatively, give us a call on (03) 9017 2792.

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