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CASE STUDY - Analyzing Operational Data to Improve the Guest Experience

Commentary by Kenny Sullivan, Senior Director of Business Intelligence, Brinker International, Inc.

As one of the world’s leading casual dining restaurant companies, Brinker owns or franchises more than 1,800 restaurants in 24 countries and employs more than 120,000 people. Its restaurant brands include Chili’s Grill & Bar, Romano’s Macaroni Grill, On The Border Mexican Grill & Cantina, and Maggiano’s Little Italy.

Managers at all levels of the organization depend on business intelligence technology to plan, manage, and control many aspects of the business. It’s a worthwhile endeavor—not only for guests but also for the our balance sheet. Brinker is in a low margin, high volume business where a single percentage point increase in productivity will drive a million dollars to the bottom line.

The organization selected WebFOCUS to build an operational reporting environment called the restaurant performance management (RPM) system. WebFOCUS fulfills two primary needs: the ability to create versatile parameterized reports and a powerful ad hoc reporting environment.

Brinker has a custom point of sale (POS) system in each restaurant, which collects data on sales transactions, cook times, employee time cards, and other data. Each night an ETL system polls the restaurants to gather this detailed information. Every single check issued to a customer is recorded, including what was purchased, how much it cost, and how much tip was included.

Brand analysts at each restaurant chain continually review this data to fine-tune their operations. For example, store managers and supervisors can view sales and labor figures for the previous day as well as historical data going back three years. Brinker’s enterprisewide reporting environment includes new dashboards, a new data warehouse, and an automated system for delivering information throughout Brinker’s worldwide operation. Users log in via standard Web browsers to run reports on the corporate intranet. So far, 10 reports are available, including the kitchen display system cook time report, daily average cook time report, cook station report, guest check times, and check times by restaurant. Each report can be sorted by brand, date, store, and other variables.

Restaurant managers don’t have a lot of time to run reports or analyze data, so they like being able to view pertinent information just by pushing buttons in a dashboard.

For example, managers can run a daily sales and guests report that compares the current day’s metrics to the same day a year ago. They can quickly examine sales volume in any time period and drill down to sort the data by categories such as food, liquor, beer, wine, banquet, and to-go. Restaurant managers don’t have a lot of time to run reports or analyze data, so they like being able to view pertinent information just by pushing buttons in a dashboard.

Other reports compare theoretical and actual labor costs. This insight helps each restaurant achieve best practices by comparing its costs and performance with others in its region or brand. Brinker also collects cook-time information for each dish as an indication of kitchen efficiency. This information helps the organization monitor efficiency by station as well as overall cook time to ensure guests aren’t waiting too long for their food.

Brinker is currently rolling out these capabilities to its entire organization. Ultimately, between 3,500 and 4,000 people will use the dashboards and parameterized reports, while another 100 to 200 analysts will create custom reports with the ad hoc reporting environment.

As the BI deployment gets underway, Brinker already is seeing tighter controls around food costs and labor costs, thanks to theoretical food costing algorithms that let people manage by exception. They use WebFOCUS Report Caster to schedule and deliver new information whenever it is available, which helps to hold managers accountable for agreed-upon milestones.

Brinker has tangible goals for this BI implementation. If they reach these goals, the RPM system will pay for itself in a matter of months. With 1,800 restaurants, even small changes can make a huge difference.

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