Table Service: Restaurant Data Analytics and Guest Experience
How do you measure the guest experience in a casual dining environment? What numbers or restaurant data analytics can you use? What metrics do you chart? You can’t always articulate just what makes this environment perfect. When something’s off though? You can tell right away. Often, you can sense it on guests faces or worse, read it directly in a negative online review.
In the casual dining restaurant segment, the implied word is “table service.” Guests come into these restaurants wanting a low-stress meal, some table service and a little bit of special treatment they wouldn’t get at a quick serve spot.
Trish, a seasoned casual dining operator, had part of it right. She’d installed a kitchen display system that could keep her kitchen processes automated and her orders routed. She knew that many larger national chains used them for their back-of-house needs. It was ideal for a high volume unit, especially one where servers had 4 to 5 tables at a time. With some built-in features like a recipe viewer, as well as restaurant data analytics features, she could keep stringent quality and consistency across multiple units.
Trish wanted her front-of-house running with the same precision as her back-of-house. A guest management system that could track critical FOH data like wait times, turnaround times and seating efficiency would give her a valuable data window into her guest’s experience. If she saw longer wait times on a report, she could assume guests in the lobby were less-than-satisfied, waiting for a seat. As wait times increase and a restaurant’s seating efficiency diminishes, casual dining operators want to strategize. This strategy includes pinpointing the days and hours when they can strategically staff, to avoid chaos. Trish used data to take it a step further! For certain wait times, she could help relieve the wait – like a small table of finger food or entertainment for kids.
Originally, Trish looked at the two stations, front, and back-of-house, as separate entities. However, using data to keep the two restaurant sections “aware” of each other changed the game for her casual dining establishment. Her kitchen display system could integrate with the guest management system and provide real-time kitchen updates to the front. This integration kept servers up front informed of processes in the back, and kitchen staff aware of the front. Like, when a t0-top gets seated, they can prepare! A specific takeout tab feature could push real-time kitchen updates on the food’s journey so that a server didn’t need to leave their post to check on off-premise dining orders. In turn, these incremental time savers created big wins for the restaurant’s metrics, profitability as well as guest satisfaction measures.
The way Trish sees it now, her entire restaurant generates pages and pages of data at any given time. The back-of-house data gives insight into food quality and speed of service, with the front-of-house data indicating seating efficiency and guest satisfaction. Unifying the data makes her quoted wait-times in the front more accurate. Her guest management system gets updates directly from the KDS. Since casual dining spots, like Trish’s, may be part of a chain, operators can use these unified metrics for a big picture view of all their sites. Through an enterprise portal, they can make top-down adjustments from any location. Every part of every restaurant process works as well as it possibly can. Every guest gets a fully-optimized dining experience, whether they know it or not!
Learning to read and apply restaurant data and analytics to her operation helped Trish indefinitely. Learning to combine the data, integrating stations of her restaurant to make them more cognizant of another, really brought the significant returns.
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About the Author
Brian leads the Implementation, Project Management, Training, and Support Services groups at QSR Automations. He has dual degrees in Information Systems and Operations Management and is a big baseball fan—he’s visited most of the Major League Baseball parks! He loves spending summer evenings with his family, especially at Louisville Bats games.