The restaurant industry isn't a likely partner for big data, even though it generates a ton. Historically, decisions about how things are run are fueled by the chef's intuition. But where some saw an odd coupling, Damian Mogavero saw opportunity.
Mogavero is the founder of Avero, a company that sells data analysis software to restaurants. His book is called “The Underground Culinary Tour: How the New Metrics of Today's Top Restaurants Are Transforming How America Eats.” He stopped by Marketplace to talk about how data is revolutionizing the restaurant industry. Below are some excerpts from their conversation.
Kai Ryssdal: Tell me a little bit about about first of all how you came to this. Now we should say at the start, you founded a company some number of years ago that did big data for restaurants.
Damian Mogavero: Yes, I was a former restaurateur and would ask very simple questions to my chefs and managers. Things like, "who are your top and bottom servers? Why do your food costs go up? Why are your labor costs go up?" And they basically gave me blank stares and wrong answers. And I thought to myself, "is it just my restaurant group, or is it the industry?" And so I decided to change it and started the company Avero by bringing together a chef, a restaurant manager, a sommelier and three techies from my studio apartment to now. It's 10,000 restaurants in 70 countries.
Ryssdal: Like all good startups, you started it in your own bedroom. What did you all measure? I mean is it like, average serving time, is it what kind of payment form the customer gives? I mean, what are the metrics?
Mogavero: Yes, so the data actually provides a baseball card equivalent. We call it the Avero server scorecard and instead of runs batted in or home runs or on base percentage, it actually will show things like how often are you selling appetizers and things like table turn time. That really helps restaurateurs better train their staff in the areas they need it.
Ryssdal: So I get that the restauranting is an extremely low-profit margin business and you've got to turn the tables and all that jazz. But if I'm like a restaurant floor manager or a waiter or maybe even down to like a busboy, it's a little bit Big Brother, man.
Mogavero: Well I'll tell you, data is an important part of so many industries. And the restaurant industry is really catching up to other industries that use data. And the way I look at it is that the data is actually the secret ingredient, if you will, to a great guest experience. But what you don't see, is behind the scenes it's the technology that is making sure that all the servers are properly trained to provide that guest experience and the kitchen doesn't run out of the ingredients of the dishes that you want.
Ryssdal: What then do you see as the, sort of, the food trends if you were the restaurant business trends in, you know, the next like 18 months?
Mogavero: I believe that what used to be a Macy's or Bloomingdale's, now food is the real estate anchor. And, for example, this whole notion of food halls. I believe that that's going to continue to play an increasingly big role. In fact, you can have so many different experiences under one roof but imagine that type of concept really throughout the country, not just in big cities but also in secondary cities as well.