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Data Visualization—The Key to Understanding Big Data in the Restaurant & Gaming Industries

Big data has become the touchstone of the 21st century. But just what does this commonly used phrase really mean? And how does it benefit those in the restaurant and gaming industries? Let’s start with the definition.

Big data consists of large, complex data sets that are often derived from new data sources. Many restaurants, for example, have 8 or more software solutions that collect data. This massive amount of data, that was once difficult to store and almost impossible to analyze, can now be cleaned, organized and integrated, leading to tremendous insights and predictive analytics.

So, just where does this data come from?

While it’s clear that a vast wealth of information comes from an establishment’s POS system, you may be surprised to find out just where other data sets lie. Your web pages, social media platforms, and even loyalty programs and guest Wi-Fi hold valuable data. The kitchen display system (KDS), purchasing and inventory software, guest management systems, as well as scheduling software collect data that will, ultimately, lead to important, and profitable, decisions and leads.

How do restaurants use this data?

Insights obtained from data can mean the difference between success and failure. Big data enables companies to increase operational efficiency as well as improve overall planning and financial opportunities. On a micro scale, data supports menu planning, efficiency of staff, to markedly decreasing costs while increasing profits. On a macro scale, big data can help establishments determine where to expand their brand with the least risk and the greatest reward.

Where does data visualization fit into big data?

To really use the data you obtain on a daily basis, it must be cleaned and integrated. The pieces of a puzzle are irrelevant until they are joined to create the bigger picture. It is in this joining, managing, and analyzing that the magic happens and data turns into relevant information that drives decisions which, ultimately, affect long-range expansion plans and short-range financial, and customer service and experience goals.

Visualizing data is one of the optimum strategies for getting a bird’s eye view on all the data that has been collected and brought together. Through graphs and visual displays, operators can get a glimpse of the health or issues that lie within an entire organization without having to dig through vast amounts of numbers. From sales to suppliers, inventory to waste management, pricing, staffing, customer trends, and social media performance, all data that can be visually displayed, enabling operators to see the whole picture and gain insights in an instant instead of hours.

A visualization dashboard is like a snapshot in time illustrating the health of your restaurants or institutions.

If you’re still digging through excel spreadsheets and applying mathematical equations to come up with strategic data-driven decisions, you are wasting valuable time. A visualization dashboard puts you in the driver’s seat and helps make decisions regarding menu effectiveness, costing, margin improvements, and supplier comparisons.

InsideTrack, the most effective data cleaning and normalization platform in the foodservice industry, uses specialized capture techniques that consolidate data from multiple sources and organize purchases based on description, category, location, time frame, vendor, and price trends. All of this is presented in the client dedicated dashboard.

Purchasing data is compared to commodity markets, and vendor pricing is regulated with overcharges noted on a discrepancy report. Contracts are managed to reduce costs and collect rebates.

Steven Daren, President of InsideTrack, notes, “We work alongside the world’s leading procurement teams from casinos, multi-unit restaurants, hospitality, concessions, contract feeders, colleges and universities to find new ways to put their purchasing data to work.”

Many in the restaurant industry have been slow to enter the world of data science. Perhaps they embarked on data analytics back in the day when this process took hours and the insights were less than clear. Today’s data visualization allows for almost instant absorption of high amounts of data, illustrated patterns and trends, and an interactive capability that allows for in-depth precision and personalization.

According to a study conducted at the University of Minnesota, the human brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than they do text. This statistic, if nothing else, should compel those in the hospitality industry to look into incorporating data visualization as they move forward in this digital age.