When it comes to shopping online, food falls behind when compared to the sophistication of the wider e-commerce market. Yes, food delivery services are simple and relatively quick, but they aren’t optimized or personalized the way some online shopping is. Consider the vast amounts of data that go into optimizing operations for industry giants like Amazon and it’s clear that most restaurants can’t possibly compete on that front. Or can they?
Industry predictions from those in the know estimate that a growing niche within the foodservice sector could create $1 trillion of global demand by 2030. What these experts realize is the potential of cloud kitchens and delivery-centric restaurants.
Just as the creation of fulfillment centers have risen up to meet the need of e-commerce retailers, cloud kitchens can provide the same function for restaurants and virtual brands.
Data-enabled kitchens, whether cloud kitchens or restaurant-based, if configured and monitored correctly, can offer detailed and layered data to optimize the online ordering process and ensure customers get what they want, the way they want it. Key to their continued success will be the use of unified cloud kitchen management software to measure key metrics and ensure they deliver on their promises.
UNDERSTANDING WHAT DELIVERY CUSTOMERS WANT
Before we get into what these metrics are, it’s critical to understand the differences in customer experience between traditional brick and mortar restaurants and virtual restaurants or takeaway brands.
Customers are far more analytical, and less sentimental, towards delivery orders than they are with restaurants. The ambiance is irrelevant, happy staff members don’t have a part to play. Modern customers will judge your business on price, speed, quality, and consistency.
CONVENIENCE IS THEIR BIGGEST DESIRE.
The growth of consumer-focused tech has created an expectation for instant fulfillment. Customers want what they ordered, exactly as pictured, as quickly as possible.
Service like that requires your kitchen to run smoothly, a streamlined machine. And to optimize your cloud kitchen operations, you need the data to identify the bottlenecks anywhere in the process, from when an order is made, to when it is delivered.
But beyond what they consciously expect from your restaurant, data can do even more. When you’re able to learn what your customers like and uncover market trends to suggest new food recommendations before they even realize they want them, you’re offering a true customer experience.
Getting access to accurate data that you can use, however, is easier said than done. If your tech stack is fragmented and the key pieces can’t communicate effectively, you have no single source of truth for your sales and operations data.
By unifying your tech through cloud kitchen management software, you can truly see every step of your operation in one place, identify and fix problem areas, and ultimately improve your brand’s key metrics. So let’s dive into what that data looks like and how to use it to optimize your kitchen
THE KEY QUESTIONS CLOUD KITCHEN DATA CAN ANSWER
Successful cloud kitchens have several things in common, and chief among them is a deep understanding of everything in their business: they know their operations, their margins, best sellers, brand coverage, target market and much more. They understand their appeal and how to mix brands and cuisines to reach wider audiences. And all of this knowledge is driven by data.
In order to turn your cloud kitchen into a streamlined, high-margin operation, you need reliable, complete data to make informed decisions.
Here are the questions you want to be able to answer with data through your cloud kitchen operating system:
This simple question is what almost all of your sales data boils down to, but there are plenty of intricacies within it to explore. Imagine being able to divide your sales data by brand, location, day, and time, by channel and aggregator.
You might find you have an item that sells particularly well at certain times, on certain platforms, or even as an extra with certain dishes. This could highlight a hidden demographic within your customer base. It might just as easily show which brands to focus on, what your menu is missing or doesn’t need when to run promotions for maximum profit, and how to minimize waste.
The rise of cloud kitchens offers opportunities to house several unique brands under one roof, and this can be a critical avenue to explore. With the right data, you can discover not just what products could sell well, but whether entire brands or cuisines could be a success. If a certain fusion or experimental dish on your menu is selling well, could there be demand for more food of that style?
Let’s say your burger joint has an Asian-style burger that outsells almost all your other offerings. Why not add a few similar items to your menu or even an entirely new Asian brand to your cloud kitchen? You can equally look to increase total sales by launching a brand that fills a gap in your lineup. If you do most of your business around main mealtimes, could you add a snack brand to keep your kitchen busy in between these times? Insights like these could be the start of a successful expansion.
HOW WELL DO WE PREPARE IT?
A cohesive cloud kitchen tech stack will tell you not just about your sales, but it should also give you a comprehensive picture of how your kitchen operates. With cost, speed, and consistency all critical to takeaway success, an end-to-end picture of your order’s lifecycle—from order to doorbell—is essential.
There are several ways cloud kitchen operators can use data to reduce the total time an order takes to reach the customer and standardize the quality of the food:
1. Reducing the time taken to receive and accept orders. Having to manually transfer orders from different food aggregators’ tablets to the kitchen creates inefficiency. Instead, your kitchen tech can consolidate orders across all channels in one system, integrated with your point-of-sale solution, to understand how long it takes to receive, accept, and start an order, all while improving visibility.
2. Ensuring maximum food prep efficiency through station routing. Create different routing rules (by appliance level, brand, or dietary restrictions) and see which rules help in creating specializations, reducing food prep and processing time, and costing you less.
Is your food traveling further around your kitchen then it needs to during preparation? Say someone orders a grilled chicken salad with sweet potato fries and a smoothie. All the items in this order can come from different stations if they’re divided by appliance type—like fryer, grill, and blender. Is there a bottleneck where every order needs to wait for the same component? Adjust your routing patterns and see measurable improvements.
3. Tracking prep times throughout your kitchen and across brands to ensure you set realistic expectations for each of your offerings. If your first assumption for a particular brand was preparing a burger in 6 minutes, why is your kitchen doing it in 9? These are the sort of questions you’ll want to answer before your customers do.
4. Streamlining the dispatching process. Are orders getting cold waiting to be collected because drivers are being assigned too late? Is the food being prepared too early? Is the handover process to delivery drivers efficient? Ensure your orders are picked up as soon as they’re ready so that they’re consistently hot and fresh and you will standardize the quality of your food.
5. Gaining visibility over drivers’ estimated time of arrival, as well as the actual timestamps when they arrive and leave, limits crowding outside the kitchen for order pick-ups, which can lead to confusion, incorrect orders, and ultimately dissatisfied customers. Instead, use data to increase consistency, ensuring each order has a single owner at any point in the order lifecycle so you can hold all parties accountable to their SLAs and agreed with performance metrics.
Finally, cloud kitchen software can provide oversight by creating timestamps throughout the whole order lifecycle. Unified cloud kitchen systems give you timestamps for every step, from order receipt and processing, through the preparation process, to driver collection and ultimately delivery. If you’re cooking pizza, you need to know exactly when the order is received, the dough is rolled out, when the toppings are on, when it’s put into the oven and comes out, and when it’s out your door and at your customer’s. Within the preparation process, this can help you streamline kitchen activities. If your oven’s capacity is limiting your speed, or is it the preparation of raw materials or order customization?
Use data to discover your busiest periods. Understand the root cause of any delay in starting orders after they’re received. If an order was delivered late, dig deeper to understand why. If your third-party delivery service didn’t hold up their end of the deal, these metrics will allow you to hold them to account.
THE WAY FORWARD
Cloud kitchens are still a relatively recent innovation in the foodservice sector, and it’s understandable that many current kitchen setups don’t have the capabilities to provide this essential data. Cloud kitchen operating systems aren’t yet commonplace and fragmented legacy solutions have struggled to keep up with innovation in the F&B sector, making it difficult to collate and manage data in a single place.
Beyond the data needed for kitchen optimization, there is vast potential for sales data to uncover trends and suggest ways to improve brand selection, marketing, and promotions. This is near impossible with currently fragmented tech stacks, but cloud kitchens who are able to take the next steps towards running a smarter, more data-driven operation will be able to truly understand their sales and gain a competitive edge over their competition.
An end-to-end system keeps data consistent throughout the entire workflow of ordering, production, and delivery. That means you can utilize this data knowing that it’s accurate and complete, from sales data on best selling items and potential promotions to bottlenecks in your process and delays introduced by your delivery service provider.
Ultimately, a unified platform like grubtech—which collates orders, timestamps every step of your food’s journey, and unifies your brands’ sales data—will give you the information you need to extract maximum value from your food delivery brands: delivering high-margin food at low cost, with fast delivery and consistent results.
And that’s certainly food for thought.