Big Data: Are We Making a Big Mistake? (FT)

Big data is a vague term for a massive phenomenon that has rapidly become an obsession with entrepreneurs, scientists, governments and the media.

Five years ago, a team of researchers from Google announced a remarkable achievement in one of the world’s top scientific journals, Nature. Without needing the results of a single medical check-up, they were nevertheless able to track the spread of influenza across the US. What’s more, they could do it more quickly than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Google’s tracking had only a day’s delay, compared with the week or more it took for the CDC to assemble a picture based on reports from doctors’ surgeries. Google was faster because it was tracking the outbreak by finding a correlation between what people searched for online and whether they had flu symptoms.

Not only was “Google Flu Trends” quick, accurate and cheap, it was theory-free. Google’s engineers didn’t bother to develop a hypothesis about what search terms – “flu symptoms” or “pharmacies near me” – might be correlated with the spread of the disease itself. The Google team just took their top 50 million search terms and let the algorithms do the work. Read More

How Big Data Can Incentivize Your Restaurant’s Waitstaff

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Big Data is being applied to countless businesses these days, namely healthcare and finance.  But restaurants can get in on the fun, too, especially if there’s a way to leverage Big Data to incentivize employees.  Wikibon’s Dave Vellante caught up with Phil Beauregard, the founder and CEO of Objective Logistics, at the Technology Underwriting Greater Good (TUGG) conference in Boston, to learn more about it.

Objective Logistics develops software for point of sale (POS) systems found in retail stores and restaurants. The startup taps into transactional data and employee-related information on the client’s POS infrastructure to rank sales personnel based on their performance, and offer rewards to the most disciplined workers.   The solution allows businesses to improve customer experience by giving their sales representatives incentives to do their jobs well year-round. Read More

Restaurants Utilize Big Data to Stay Competitive

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Succeeding in the restaurant industry is no easy task.

According to the Washington, D.C.-based National Restaurant Association, a leading trade group, pre-tax profit margins range between three and five percent.

The high cost of rent, licensing and personnel are daunting. But restaurants face another obstacle: critics, not only professional journalists but amateurs who offer their opinions on social media. A bad review on Google or Yelp can undercut even the best-planned ventures.

The importance of quality is why a number of restaurants are using big data to develop a better understanding of consumer preferences and to improve their food and service. In some cases, these businesses have already achieved revenue gains as a result of their efforts. Read More

The Future of Restaurant Technology



From tablets and social media to online ordering and fitness apps, technology is rapidly changing the restaurant business. But touch screen ordering has nothing on what the future of restaurant tech could be. 

TellSpec, a biotechnology company located in Toronto, is currently developing a device that scans the food we eat - and not barcodes or nutrition labels, the food itself. Allergic to onions but not sure if they are in the pasta sauce you are about to eat? No problem. Read More

Want to know more about technology's impact on the restaurant and hospitality business? Check out this episode of Turn & Burn TV with host Paul Barron and The Most Connected Man on the Planet, Chris Dancy: 

Must-haves for a Responsive Website

Responsive website design makes it possible for visitors to easily view and navigate a site whether they are viewing it on a desktop, tablet or smart phone. This design approach has become very popular because mobile web access is exploding. Mashable reports that the mobile web will be bigger than the desktop web by 2015.

The mobile web matters tremendously to restaurants, as their sites are exceedingly popular destinations for mobile web users. Among other things, mobile users view restaurant sites for:

• Customer reviews
• Downloadable coupons
• Driving directions
• Hours of operation
• Location 

Read More

Mobile Marketing Works for Restaurants

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As a restaurant owner there are a lot of different tactics that can help drive businesses in today’s connected world. We have email, Facebook, Twitter and paid search, but when it comes to the local nature of restaurants, not much can compete with the power of mobile marketing for restaurants.

I don’t even need to share all of the stats because you already see it every day. Heck, you can observe your own behaviors and see just how important your mobile device is when it comes to finding information.

Yes, adding mobile marketing to your mix means you have to worry about one more thing. Whether you want to manage it in house or work with a trusted partner, it’s something you can no longer ignore. Read More

What We Learned from Taco Bell President's Reddit Chat

Photo Credit: Taco Bell Twitter 

Photo Credit: Taco Bell Twitter 

Last week, Taco Bell president Brian Niccol agreed to an Ask Me Anything via Reddit, a topic-driven chat board full of the brand's heavy user demographic. Although he was bombarded with all sorts of questions, here are some things we learned from the few he actually had time to answer:

  • If he could add anything to the menu, it would be beer.
  • Being president of Taco Bell is the greatest job ever, besides being CEO of Taco Bell.
  • We should all "stay tuned" about Pepsi "releasing Baja Blast into the wild." One reader said it's launching in May.
  • Don't look for guacamole on the breakfast menu any time soon. Niccol said he's "not sure everyone in America is ready" for such an offering.

Niccol also asked readers to submit sauce ideas (many want more heat) to Taco Bell privately. "We do have some new sauce packets coming. Would love your opinion," he wrote. Read More

Top 10 DON'Ts for Your Restaurant Website

By Paul Barron, CEO/Founder of DigitalCoCo, Foodable WebTV & the Restaurant Social Media Index

                                 FOODABLE WEBTV NETWORK

                                 FOODABLE WEBTV NETWORK

As you all know, there’s this thing called the Internet and social media — oh yeah, and the main computer that emerging restaurant guests are using is in their pocket. When I started designing and developing media websites in the mid-’90s, we just had the grace of AOL Keywords and Alta Vista in a time when the Internet was truly the Wild West.

I feel like the web is still a Wild West showdown with entrants of all types in social, mobile and the vast array of web services available for a restaurant operator today. The hard part is navigating the waters of what not to do when creating a website for your restaurant. Though I still believe that a website will be a thing of the past in the next ten years, today we still have to deal with this 25-year-old technology called the web. Mind you, the web and the Internet are two very different things — I won’t go into detail; that’s a different article completely. Read More

Successful Brands Don't Care About Sales on Twitter

Social-savvy brands have been using Twitter to engage with fans and followers for years, but since we know most of them aren't advertising, what are they using the service for?

According to a recent Social Media Marketing University survey of more than 1,000 marketing professionals in the U.S., brands are mostly using Twitter to spread brand awareness. Surprisingly, driving sales is not nearly as important to marketers.

The following chart, created by Statista, breaks down the top seven reasons why brands are currently using Twitter. Read More

Brands Respond To Customer Support Enquiries 8 Times Faster On Twitter Than On Email

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Brands who offer consumer support on Twitter respond to tweets on average eight times faster than the typical brand email response, but only two in five successfully resolved the customer’s enquiry on the social network, reveals a new study.

Eptica surveyed 100 leading UK companies across 10 sectors and found that 76 percent had a presence on Twitter, with 53 percent responding to customer tweets, with an average response time of 8 hours and 37 minutes.

This compares to an email average response time of 61 hours and 39 minutes.

However, only 39 percent of brand responses on Twitter were deemed to have successfully answered the customer’s enquiry. Read More

There's A 30-Person 'War Room' Behind The Awesome Burger King NCAA Tweets

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Burger King has become a top brand on Twitter during the NCAA tournament.

The fast food chain's #WatchLikeAKing hashtag has been used thousands of times. The hashtag is part of a contest to win gift cards, televisions, tickets to the Final Four game, and more. 

"The days of slapping your logo on a stadium are over, especially when you're a huge brand like ours," Eric Hirschhorn, Chief Marketing Officer at Burger King, told Business Insider. "People are so fanatical about the tournament and sharing emotions that we wanted to engage them." 

Behind-the-scenes, Burger King has amassed a team of 30 people who work long hours in a "war room," monitoring tweets and trying to predict the outcome of the games, Adam Gagliardo, Director of Digital Marketing and Social, said in a telephone interview. Read More

Starbucks Locks in on Streamlined App Experience to Grow Mobile Revenue

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With mobile now accounting for 14 percent of Starbucks’ sales in the United States, the company is looking for next-generation application features to keep the brand ahead of the curve.

During Starbucks’ Annual Meeting of Shareholders earlier this week, it was revealed that mobile sales have grown from 10 percent to 14 percent of the company’s total United States revenue since July last year. With the addition of new payment app features and tests, Starbucks hopes to continue to lead the pack of retailers seeing the most success with mobile.

“What we saw this holiday with the Starbucks gift card and mobile [is that] the investments that we’ve made ahead of the growth curve and the investments we’re going to make in the near term are going to put us in a very unique position we believe not only to manage through and negotiate through this seismic change, but come out on the other side as one of the big winners,” said Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, Seattle at the meeting. Read More

How Dunkin' Donuts Stores in Arizona Beat the Heat With Twitter

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When retail chains run national campaigns, their locations in some geographical areas get left out in the cold—or uncomfortably in the scorching sun, if they happen to be located in the American Southwest. First Cup, a Dunkin' Donuts franchisee company in Phoenix, knows the feeling when it comes to the quick-serve brand's efforts on Twitter.

"With our heat, we don't really want the same messaging they are using back East during certain parts of the year," Alex Apodaca, COO of First Cup, told Adweek. "It's nice to get to control the Twitter [offer] for out here in the desert."

So during the last half of 2013, Apodaca & Co. tested HipLogiq's SocialCompass in order to suss out relevant Twitter conversations. (They released the data results for the first time today.) The franchisee used the handle @DunkinDonutsPHX, which has grown modestly to 2,160 followers. Via a search algorithm, the system found nearby people who were prime targets for a complimentary medium coffee—and "iced" was part of the pitch, of course. Read More

Farmed and Dangerous: Dangerous for Chipotle?

Photo Credit: Facebook 

Photo Credit: Facebook 

By Paul Barron, CEO/Founder of DigitalCoCo, Foodable WebTV & the Restaurant Social Media Index

I am one of the biggest proponents of restaurants taking a dip into content development to deliver a message. The value of original content from brands has an unknown effect and performance that can impact a brand in many ways. The recent “Farmed and Dangerous” WebTV series featured on Hulu and YouTube is pulling out all the stops, with features from up-and-coming artistRae (and some interesting dancer selections). Then you have Buck Marshall, an intriguing character that deserves an Emmy for his performance on the ‘Say No To GMO’ videos. He is sporting over 2,400 Twitter followers and seems to keep pace with the Twitter trolls with snarky comebacks, stats and info loaded with links.

Biting Into the Competition

Chipotle is taking a hard stance with hits on McDonald’s, Tyson Foods and just about every major food provider in the industrial agriculture game. Snappy scripts even poking fun at its own brand and marketing position is placing the series at the top of intrigue for me. While I am unsure of the long-term intent of Chipotle, the short-term impact of this new campaign is already showing some evidence of consumer confusion. Read More

Turn & Burn: Discussing the Mobile Revolution with Haydn Shaughnessy

In this episode of Turn & Burn, brought to you by the Foodable WebTV Network, host Paul Barron is joined by Forbes writer Haydn Shaughnessy, a systemic innovation and transformation expert. The two discuss the direction of mobile and the progression of wearable technology. Watch the full episode as Paul and Haydn dive into the possibilities of how restaurants can efficiently utilize these technologies, where consumers are spending most of their time within their mobile devices, and how the landscape continues to change for mobile consumers.

Soon You’ll be Able to IM Your Waiter for a Beer and a Dozen Wings at Your Favorite Sports Bar

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It’s the Final Four of the NCAA Men’s Basketball, but you can’t flag down your waiter among the crowds of screaming University of Texas fans (yes, one day Texas will return to the Final Four) to order another pitcher of beer. Why not send him an instant message over the bar’s Wi-Fi network? Why not order another plate of nachos while you’re at it, and then close out your tab?

If your bar happens to be a Buffalo Wild Wings, then all of those things are now or will soon be entirely possible from the Samsung tablet at your elbow. Like many of the big of chain casual dining restaurants, Buffalo Wild Wings is embracing the idea of the slate on the tabletop; not just as a means of offering up digital menus and ordering options, but also as an entertainment device. Read More

Dissecting the Art of Virality for Small Brand Exposure

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Several large food brands have been known to partner with other lifestyle brands or celebrities to become full-circle, to cement credibility, and to raise awareness to a larger audience. For example, Taco Bell has a partnership with the NBA, Subway has teamed up with Michelle Obama to spearhead childhood obesity, and Red Bull pairs up with so many different extreme sporting personalities/events, we stopped keeping track. But what about smaller restaurant and food brands that don’t have the budget for these kinds of sponsorships? Because, let’s face it, most don’t.

Easy Access.

Let’s reflect for a minute. Remember the days when celebrities were ‘untouchable?’ Before reality television became more invasive than informative (wait, did that ever happen)? Before you were one tweet away from connecting to virtually anyone? Celebrities have become humanized, thanks to the power of technology and social media. On top of that, user-generated platforms like YouTube have launched “normal” people (read: not celebrities) into rising stars. Read More

A Small Audience Makes a Big Difference in Your Restaurant Social Media

I recently read a shocking statistic:  4.7% of your customers generate 100% of your online Word of Mouth.  At first glance that number is staggering – at second glance the possibilities are.

What does this mean for your restaurant social media? It means that it means something, so don’t give up! If you see that the same circle of customers likes or shares your posts over and over again that doesn’t mean others aren’t hearing your message – it means those socially engaged customers are the ones helping you spread the word.  And that means opportunity for you.  These customers are your biggest advocates, the ones that will market your restaurant for you – not for “free stuff,” but because they truly love you. These are the customers you should focus more effort into, not less. Make it personal.


How do you extend their reach and make their voice louder?  Give them something to talk about! They have shown a propensity to interact with your content, so give them more to talk about. Be sure your social media channels are active and that you are responding to all comments online. And then get to know them – send your biggest advocates a personal message, invite them in or give them something. A gesture is nice, an experience is memorable, but something unique and personal is buzz-worthy.  Feature them on your social media (with their permission), they’ll be sure to share it. Create a unique “thank you” catered to their needs and they’ll be sure to tell the world what happens when the world talks about you.  And that creates more advocates for your brand. Read More

Brands Must Shift from 'Selling' to 'Telling'

Most brands have a great story that epitomizes their product, service or just the aura of the brand itself. From the smallest to the largest brand, the story is one of the first brand elements that can scale. It’s the one thing that levels the playing field across segments, consumer culture and brand innovation. 

Today’s brand stories have faltered though. With the onslaught of social media and the rush to what seemed to be FREE marketing, brands are forgetting that one invaluable piece, which is to tell the story. Recognizable storytellers are brands like Chipotle and Red Bull, but there are so many others that are breaking the rules now in how storytelling is becoming an art.

The challenge that brands have is to determine where the storytelling belongs within the organization. My belief is that it belongs to the ambassadors of the brand – no longer is it the right or domain of marketing or even the CEO. Like most great stories, there are many chapters and many characters. The brands that capture this are the ones that will soon be known to the masses.


The Ad Shift: Tell Your Story

The advertising shift is beginning to take place with embedded storytelling, which is similar to the hot topic area of native advertising. With embedded stories, the focus of the story becomes so much more than the eventual ad that is delivered in concepts like Native Advertising. It’s complicated, but the root of the matter is that each story must have these three elements to become an embedded story. Read More

Whole Foods Gets More Tech-Savvy with Square Stand POS

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Technology is what keeps restaurants connected to guests, not only outside of the restaurant via social media channels, but in-store, as well, with updated POS systems, and tablets displaying menus, tableside ordering, and interactive components like games to entertain guests in order to fill wait times, just to name a few.

But it’s not just standard restaurants that are adapting to this plugged-in foodie culture. Whole Foods has recently started to integrate Square Stands, a sleek POS system, into various Whole Foods locations. Don’t worry – the new tech won’t replace cashiers. Because Whole Foods houses ready-to-eat foods that make for a good lunch spot, the new tech is more for on-the-go guests with few items. Read More