Cooking with Big Data in the Food Industry

Cooking with Big Data in the Food Industry

Image courtesy of littlebigplanet and

When you think of Big Data, the types of companies using it are probably technology based, perhaps in the finance sector, marketing, websites, and anyone else that needs to process their structured, semi structured, or unstructured data for insights.  But what about offline businesses? They probably have a website, but their business transactions are typically done face to face.  

Take a local family owned chain of restaurants for example.  It's highly doubtful that they have so much data coming in from their website, facebook page, or twitter account, that they would need to process it.  They do however  have plenty of data being collected in the kitchen everyday.  

Restaurants that serve food made from fresh ingredients, which is pretty much all of them, face the task of ordering just the right amount so they have enough to cook every dish ordered, but not too much that some will spoil and go to waste.  It used to be that projected amounts were based on stats like previous amounts purchased, dishes sold , amount of spoiled product (one of the biggest problems faced by the food-service industry is inventory shrinkage, not the Seinfeld kind), estimated product shelf-life, not to mention the chef's gut-instinct and past experience.  It's plenty good if the chef or kitchen manager has been around for a while and has his system down pat.  But what about those that needed a little more help with their projections?  

How about technologies that alert you as to when your stock is running low, so you don't run out before the next batch is ordered?

And what about getting customer feedback to know what was good, what was bad, and what can be improved.  Seriously, how often do you see comment cards with things other than obscenities and funny pictures?  Imagine if a restaurateur could tie post-sale comments to his purchasing and ordering, as well as recipe amounts and financial stats like profit margin for actionable insights.  All of this information is enough steer a restaurant business in the right direction.  

Luckily for the restaurant industry, there are more and more options hitting the market.  One could build his or her own system by building an on-site data center and using open-source Hadoop.  Or, there are platforms as a service out there that can manipulate the data to exact specifications, for example oh I don't know Xplenty?  And since no one leaves their house without a smartphone or a tablet, there are more and more apps hitting the market for fully utilizing the data in any industry, whether restaurants, travel, or e-commerce.   

 Thanks to emerging technologies like Hadoop, the world is your oyster, now you just have to download it and steam it. 

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