The Value of Real-Time Data Reporting

QUESTION:

What is this talk I keep hearing about collecting dailysales data?

ANSWER:

With increased competition and higher food and labor costs, the restaurant industry’s overall net income is shrinking, and restaurateurs have to pay more attention to every penny. Therefore, the old ways of gathering and analyzing restaurant data need to be tossed out the window. Too many accountants send information to their restaurant clients after the end of the calendar month, but that’s too late. This practice is simply no longer acceptable. Progressive, technology-driven restaurateurs are gravitating toward systems that can provide meaningful results on a daily basis, even down to the ideal gross profit generated from your prior day’s net sales mix! In the past, this sort of granular reporting was available only to the large chains, but now independent operators have begun to demand the same sort of data—and they have every right to expect it.

Restaurateurs can now gain access to various programs that can capture all of a restaurant’s data at the point of sale and make it available to the operator via the Internet or a mobile device on a daily basis. (Although there is a significant setup fee involved, this is typically a one-time charge.) Imagine being able to check your restaurant’s operations and profitability on your smartphone while standing in line at Disneyland or playing a round on the golf course. Capturing and interpreting this vital data in real time will help any operator make better decisions that can lead to lower food and labor costs and higher profitability.

QUESTION:

I’m a little intimidated by all of the newfangled technologyon the market today. What’s the best way to become familiar with it?

ANSWER:

Start with your kids or, for that matter, any person under 20. You can also consult with industry reps at trade shows and ask them for a simple, plain-English demo of their products. Meanwhile, I encourage every operator to develop a relationship with the local college or university and create an internship program with the marketing department or business school. These institutions have ready-to-deploy talent who are already learning the newest systems and technologies that could impact your restaurant and attract new customers. Adding these young people to your team, even if only temporarily, brings learning opportunities both for them and for yourself if you’re willing to let them teach you a thing or two!

Above all, you have to be willing to change your thinking. I encourage all restaurateurs to show up at work tomorrow with a stopwatch and note pad and observe every aspect of the restaurant’s operations. Make a complete list of problems that you’ve observed, and then start looking for solutions. For example, let’s say you noticed that your manager estimates the weekly staff schedule on a piece of paper first and then enters the schedule into a spreadsheet on the computer. That’s a poor use of time—today’s technology lets you create and modify an estimated weekly staffing schedule based on average labor hours per shift over the past several months. It can even be programmed to send out an email to your waitstaff automatically. This system can be used to update your master staffing list and then push it out to all staff, managers and owners’ mobile devices. This technology already exists, and it’s much easier to use than you may expect!