What is Big Data?

The term “big data” has been buzzing around industries and businesses alike with an intense ferocity, making its presence known through countless meetings, emails, publications, strategies and analyses around the globe. Even the concept itself has been personified – now resembling a valuable direct link from your consumer and market to your business itself. 

Big Data

It’s important to understand what big data is before attempting to make the most of its immense power. When most people attempt to explain what big data is, they break it down into several types of information, including structured (like forms your customers fill out or any sort of transactional data that can be categorized and analyzed easily) and unstructured information. Tweets, pictures and other social media posts are often considered unstructured data because they aren’t usually easy to categorize and analyze.

How Does Big Data Work?

The concept of big data isn’t really brand new to organizations, either. Gathering information and utilizing it to make significant business decisions is a common methodology throughout every industry. However, the newest iteration of big data presents significant benefits that did not exist before; efficiency and speed. In prior years, organizations would have gathered information manually, used their teams to run data analytics and unearthed facts and statistics to apply to future business decisions. Big data is now agile, with the ability to work rapidly, thus giving businesses a competitive edge they did not have previously.

Today, the data being collected is generated by customers themselves while they interact with your restaurant in real time. This means that based on what customers are interacting with, restaurateurs can make fact-based decisions based on the information available to them. In essence, a brand can make future plans based on what menu items are popular with which visitors, when those visitors are most likely to visit a location and what promotions are enticing enough to get them through the door.

In your restaurant, there are plenty of places to gather valuable data from, whether it’s from online ordering, loyalty programs, customer surveys and promotions or even the POS system itself. While each can shed some light on certain portions of customer data, looking at these sources holistically can produce something similar to what the ideal customer looks like. What are they ordering? When do they order it? How often are they coming in and are they interacting with your promotions and loyalty programs? Answering these questions makes it easier to understand what works and what doesn’t, giving you the chance to fix known problems and begin anticipating what the next big thing might be.

This all sounds great, but if big data has been around for years, why are so many brands across the spectrum making such a big deal out of it? The answer, as it turns out, lies in how the data being collected is used to address a number of concerns directly related to profitability. According to a recent article from HotSchedules, several big-name companies, including McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and Wendy’s are using information they’ve collected to make important decisions. For example, Wendy’s is using sales data, geographical information and surveys to determine just how far their customers are willing to travel to get their food. Using those bits of data, the big name burger brand is able to find what it believes will be the most profitable locations. 

The 3 V’s of Big Data 

Big data is characterized by three primary factors, also referred to as “the 3 V’s.” 

  • Volume: Big data gathers and tracks information from multiple sources, which in turn creates large volumes of data.To give you just a rough idea of just how much data we produce each day, in 2013, IBM posted on its industry insights blog that 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are generated every day. What’s even more shocking is that when the article was published, the tech giant suggested that roughly 90% of all the world’s data came about in the prior two years. With that much information, finding out what data points are the most important to you and your business can be integral to taking that next big step.
  • Velocity: The stream of information flowing these days is not only fast paced but non-stop, which means it must be evaluated in a timely fashion. Due to the velocity, big data is processed in real time, allowing businesses to make important decisions on the fly.
  • Variety: Due to the volume of big data, it exists in diverse formats, sometimes resulting in structured data revolving around numbers, statistics and percentages, or unstructured platforms, in media outlets such as email, video, and text documents.From tweets and pictures to more regimented data like sales numbers and foot traffic, the variety of information coming in from online sources and more traditional avenues has to be taken into account before making decisions. However, it’s also important to understand what information is actually valuable to your brand, and separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak.

Big data webinar imageBy fully understanding the power of the “3 V’s,” organizations are able to study powerful insights drawn from multiple sources to decipher hidden patterns, trends, behaviors and relationships. Since the data gathered can be prescriptive, descriptive, and diagnostic all at once, restaurant operators can maximize their organizations like never before! 

As time marches on and the data we collect becomes increasingly complex and diverse, it’s important to consider how much data we’re working with daily, where it’s coming from and what sources are producing it. Not all data is going to be useful, but learning how to control the fire hose of information pointed at you and your team can change the way you see problems and even help you develop better solutions.

By now it’s a given that big data is more than just “data.” It’s an embodiment and representation of analytics used to deconstruct consumer trends and behavior, and then make moves that capitalize on what we’ve learned. These analytics are quickly becoming the most effective and beneficial way to maximize your operation. 

Content updated on February 13, 2019