Data architect Randall Parman describes how the restaurant chain is developing sophisticated data analysis for improving employee performance and store sales.

Mary Hayes Weier, Contributor

October 8, 2007

3 Min Read

Randall Parman, database architect at restaurant chain Applebee's International and head of Teradata's user group, opened Teradata's annual user conference in Las Vegas Monday with a warning to those who aren't making the best use of their data.

"Data is like gold," Parman noted. "If you don't use the gold, you will have someone else who will come along and take the opportunity," Parman said, speaking to a room packed with nearly 3,900 attendees.

Parman drew an analogy to the story about Isaac Newton's discovery of gravity after being hit on the head with an apple. "What if Newton had just eaten the apple?" he asked. "What if we failed to use the technology available, or failed to use these insights to take action?"

Applebee's, which has 1,900 casual dining restaurants worldwide and grossed $1.34 billion in revenue last year, has a four-node, 4-Tbyte data warehouse system. Although the company has just a staff of three database administrators working with the system, "we have leveraged our information to gain insight into the business," he said. "Some of those insights were unexpected, coming out of the blue while we were looking in a completely different [direction]."

For example, Applebee's had been using the data warehouse to analyze the "back-of-house performance" of restaurants, including how long it took employees to prepare food in the kitchens. "Someone had the unanticipated insight to use back-of-house performance to gage front-of-house performance," he said. "From looking at the time the order was placed to when it was paid for by credit card and subtracting preparation meal time, we could figure out how long servers were spending time with customers." Parman added that the information is being used to help the company improve customer experiences.

Applebee's has also advanced beyond basic business decisions based on data -- such as replenishing food supplies based on how much finished product was sold daily -- to developing more sophisticated analyses. His department, for example, came up with a "menu optimization quadrant" that looks at how well items are selling so the company can make better decisions about not only what to order, but about what products to promote.

Technology vendors, meanwhile, see untapped potential for businesses to spend money on software and hardware that lets them use data to make more sophisticated business decisions. That's why SAP, whose customers have hordes of potentially untapped data in their ERP systems, announced Sunday it will acquire BI market leader Business Objects for $1.6 billion, even after it's said its primary strategy is to acquire only small companies. And it's why Teradata and SAS Institute announced Monday a partnership to work closely together to integrate SAS's reporting and query tools with Teradata's data warehouse, including a new "center of excellence" in which engineers will collaborate on research and development.

"Companies who operate with the greatest speed and intelligence will win," said Teradata CEO Michael Koehler, during Monday's keynote address.

Never Miss a Beat: Get a snapshot of the issues affecting the IT industry straight to your inbox.

You May Also Like

More Insights