What 50 of the Best Restaurant Chains Are Doing to Leverage Their Data

By October 5, 2015 November 7th, 2017 No Comments

Sitting in a beautiful conference facility in Plano, TX, 50+ brands gathered for the first Restaurant Intelligence Conference organized by MarketingVitals. I was honored to deliver the morning keynote on how the best brands in the world have leveraged big data across their organization, based on the 20+ years of experience we have helping companies like Google, Disney, Universal Studios and many others. These companies, and companies like Amazon, GE, Intuit and AirBnB, have understood that the way to build a great brand today is to be customer centric, data driven and managed by the narrative of the customer journey. While the traditional restaurant industry has been slow to adopt some technologies, companies like MarketingVitals, IdealSpot and a few others are making it easier for these companies to seek out innovation.

New Menu Labeling Laws and the Marketing Opportunities

After my session, Hap Herndon, president and senior consultant with Worldwide Hospitality Solutions was joined by Ryan Eason, the Community Relations Manager at HCA North Texas. They spoke about mandated menu labeling, scheduled to take effect in late 2016. We had great discussions on what opportunities and chaos this will present to various chains. Ron Ruggless from Nation’s Restaurant News covered the session but you can see how brands like Chipotle are leveraging these nutritional trends as a marketing opportunity.

The Elastic Consumer

There was a large discussion around what consumers will bear with change. What would they tolerate if our costs went up because the price of labor or supplies changed? What does the data tell us we can do? How do we set up controls to understand the impact of these changes to our bottom line and to our guests behavior? Luckily one solution MarketingVitals is making available is “funnel view”, similar to what we would see as the progression of people moving through a checkout process online. With their analytics, you can now see how different things impact the front and back of the house, what happens if they order a particular appetizer and lunch combination, how will this impact their total spend, etc.?

Can we Adapt for the Millennial Consumer?

We all recognize a shift in behavior is happening with the younger generation. How they interact, consume and share with brands is incredibly powerful. Yet, it represents several challenges and rewards. It was clear that even if the millennial consumer wasn’t paying for the meal in a restaurant, they were significantly influencing where the family was headed. From brands adding electrical outlets and interactive tablets, the industry is trying to get an understanding of this shift.

If these are your customers today, you understand. If not, will they be your customers a few years from now and how will you be ready for them?

Jon M Rice, the Former CMO at Chuck E Cheese and Homestyle Dining LLP shared information from his study on the topic. The Dallas Morning News had a good write up on the MarketingVitals session on how Millennials are the new meal tickets for restaurants. If you missed the event, make sure not to miss it next year.

Spending time with these smart restaurant chains is certainly influencing some of the new products we are launching at IdealSpot. For example, our new audience product is pulling data about the interests of your customer base from several data sources including social media and helping you find pockets of like customers in new areas and understanding the likelihood that those people will be your customers.

Marc Smookler

About Marc Smookler

Marc Smookler has founded 6 companies—2 of which have been acquired and 3 of which are market leaders in their respective spaces—the leading brick-and-mortar retail analytics company (, a leading online retailer (, and a cutting-edge marketing services platform ( Marc’s companies have generated over $300M in lifetime revenues and sold over 150,000 products worldwide.

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