Data is the future for restaurants.

There are many tried and true practices that go into running a successful restaurant. Until now, mastering those made all the difference between a good business and a great one. Today, restaurant businesses of all sizes need to do more with data to reach the top and stay there. Here are five ways that data analytics will help you take your restaurant to the next level.

Interactive Dashboards – Sure, the reports you have been using for years have served you well, but it is time to move on. With a click of a button, interactive dashboards deliver insights across time, location, and other metrics specific to your restaurant. Quickly see things like location performance yesterday versus the same day last year, profit trending compared to projections and from one location to the next, and inventory cost variation over time and by region – no more downloads or spreadsheets necessary. The same old canned reports are no longer enough to provide insights that will give you a competitive advantage.

Data Integration – Dashboards are not very useful if they only show data from one system at a time. Integrating data from your POS, back of house, labor, finance, and other systems provides a 360-degree view on a single pane of glass. Instead of jumping from one screen to another, look at one screen to understand profitability by employee with combined financials, labor, and POS data or check on sales data together with email marketing results to get the ROI of your campaigns. Why waste time every month pulling data from disparate systems when you can have up-to-date information from all of your systems in one place and at your fingertips?

Customer Insights – You know your customers and you do everything you can to keep them happy – now you can use data to know them better and to do more. Tracking menu performance over time and location or customer specific insights like spending habits, visit frequency, and even wine preferences mean better service, happier customers, and higher profits. Using analytics with POS, loyalty program, and demographic data will provide insights that help you turn prospects into casual visitors, casual visitors into regulars, and regulars into advocates.

Predictive Analytics – If you are depending on intuition alone to plan for the future you are at risk of falling behind and fast. Predictive analytics will keep you at the front of the pack. Improve upsell and promotions success using a comprehensive market basket analysis to get the facts about products that sell well together. Optimize labor and menu to match expected weather conditions with advanced predictive analytics that use data from your business combined with weather forecasts. Understand campaign ROI (and match emails to desired outcomes) with detailed statistical insights into sales and marketing results. This is what the big guys do – now you can too.

Automation – All of this might sound great, but doesn’t it just take more time? Data analytics systems help here too. Automated notifications and tasks make sure that insights are delivered to the right people at the right time and this means much more than just sending out a report on a schedule. Get a text that you are close to hitting an overtime hurdle before the schedule goes out. Send reminders and escalate notifications if compliance tasks are left incomplete. See alerts about price changes in time to make adjustments. With comprehensive analytics you not only have better information, you can be more efficient as well.

The bottom line? Restaurants generate large quantities of valuable data every day. To stay competitive and thrive in the market, use data analytics to build on the experience of your team and transform that data into action.