Have you ever wondered how your local grocery story knows to give you a coupon for your favorite breakfast cereal? Or why an item you just looked at on Amazon appears as an ad on that article you just read online? Examples of how companies are using sophisticated business intelligence are everywhere, from the drug store to your online social media profiles.

The term “business intelligence (BI)” was first introduced in 1958, long before the invention of sophisticated computer systems. Over the past 60 years, the concept has been modernized and has revolutionized multiple industries in the past decade.

Putting Business Intelligence to Use in the Restaurant Industry

Your POS and back-of-house (BOH) systems undoubtedly provide you with critical reporting that you already use in your daily operations. Are those systems linked together? And are they linked to other systems in your restaurants?

Some BI systems are built on open platforms, allowing them complete flexibility to extract data from all of the systems you already have in your restaurants, and then aggregate that data into valuable reports and dashboards for your analysis and action. This includes your POS, BOH and video surveillance systems, in addition to external systems such as your accounting, supply chain, Voice of the Customer (VoC) and bank/smart safe systems.

Dashboards are a quick and easy way to view your most important metrics and transform that information into appropriate actions. They draw attention to areas that deserve focus. Real-time views of your operational data allow leadership to immediately identify and address problem areas, as well as recognize and reward excellent outcomes. For example, combining your VoC data with sales trends gives you one more point on a scorecard to tie into performance bonuses.

Imagine being able to identify a potential problem, isolate the day and time of a questionable transaction, then go directly to the video feed of that exact transaction – all with just a few clicks! You can quickly determine if you simply have an honest mistake or a dishonest employee, and can take timely action to correct the problem.

The reports generated by BI systems can help with employee training and productivity, highlight positive and negative employee performance metrics, and also assist with labor forecasting. And of course your accountant is going to jump for joy when she sees all the available reporting you now have at your fingertips.

Business Intelligence Isn’t Just for the Big Guy

While business intelligence is certainly critical for the trending mega organizations, operators with a few restaurants can also benefit from utilizing BI tools. Role-based dashboards put pertinent sales and operations data in the hands of managers, empowering them to make day-to-day decisions so operators can focus on the big picture. A subcomponent of business intelligence is the concept of above-store reporting, which aggregates data across an organization, many times pulling from different POS platforms and varying types of systems. This reporting method is gaining traction as many operators diversify their businesses into other restaurant concepts.

Business Intelligence Can Even Affect Your Brand and Your Culture

The real brand lies in each and every customer experience in your restaurants. Giving your staff the relevant tools they need and the latitude to make decisions often creates a sense of ownership and accountability. Wins are shared as a team and team members hold each other accountable for losses, creating a positive boost to your brand and restaurant culture.

How to Make Business Intelligence Work for You

The level of business intelligence you need really depends on your organization. What are your pain points? And how can advanced reporting help you solve and prevent them? There are several platforms on the market today, each with different features. The most powerful tools are ones that work with all your current systems and allow a wide range of customization, but be mindful of added fees that may come with that convenience. Research your options and find the best fit for your company. With so many opportunities for improved reporting, the benefits can far outweigh the costs!

by Stacy Smith, CPA, a shareholder of Mize Houser & Company P.A. – a full-service accounting firm that provides the Elevanta Accounting & Payroll solution