Managing a successful, and profitable, business is a lot of work. Managers must have a clear idea of the direction of their company, a deep understanding of their customers, and a constant drive toward process improvement and increased efficiency. In restaurant and retail environments this is especially true. Missing the opportunities to address small inefficiencies in your production or selling processes can result in large cumulative losses. Often, managers know where they need to implement process improvement, but doing so can seem overwhelming. This is where Internet of Things (IoT) solutions for your restaurant or retail business can help.
In this article we’ll discuss some of the key ways that IoT technology can help you, as a business owner or manager, gain greater insights into the way your business is running. In particular, IoT solutions can help you create targeted process improvement plans for your organization. By placing an unprecedented amount of information at your fingertips, IoT solutions can empower you to take intelligent action to stop small issues from becoming big problems further down the road.
Business owners and managers know that their job is largely aligning the trajectory of their operation with their ultimate goals and vision. Typically, this precludes as much direct involvement in the day-to-day operations of their business as they would like. In these cases, managers and owners must rely on their shift supervisors and staff to ensure that their business is operating at peak efficiency. While your staff may be well trained and have the best intentions, they may not see how small inconsistencies or problems can translate into big losses over time for your company. We’ll outline some of the ways that these small problems can manifest in restaurant and retail environments, and then discuss how IoT solutions can help you address these events before they become bigger problems.
In the hectic, fast-paced, world of restaurants, picking up on the small details can be difficult for your staff. For example, your staff may not think much of a light being left on overnight at the end of a shift. But that light is an easily preventable source of revenue loss. A door left propped open can seem inconsequential. However, over time it causes your air conditioning unit to work overtime, leading to higher electrical bills. One of your grills not working as well as another can seem like a minor inconvenience to the worker at that station. Indeed, they could not even notice the problem because it happens gradually over time. However, that grill is a signal that preventative maintenance might be necessary. If that maintenance isn’t performed, you could have to replace the entire unit, costing you significantly more money.
In a retail environment, staff are trained to put the customer first. Customer service is the key to running a successful retail operation, and both staff and managers consistently train toward this goal. Taking the time to notice the small details outside of this focus can often be challenging, and opportunities to make small changes that can have a big impact are often missed. As in the case of the restaurant, leaving a door propped open or a light on will have a direct impact on your electrical bill. While this may not be much at first, over time it can add up to a significant sum.
Another huge area for process improvement is in staffing. In retail environments, staffing is often one of your largest sources of expenditure. If your managers or staff don’t notice that they are overstaffed during lull periods, and understaffed during peak hours, not only are you wasting money, but your staff may not be providing the best customer service possible. Additionally, you may not realize that the flow of customers doesn’t begin until an hour after you open, and drops off significantly an hour before you close. Without that data you can’t change your hours to maximize your profits and minimize the amount spent on unnecessary staffing.
While the aforementioned scenarios are just examples, opportunities for improvement in operational efficiency exist in every business environment imaginable. What may work in other industries might not be the best way to address your own needs and goals. Providing you the specific data that you and your managers need to make informed, impactful decisions is precisely where IoT business solutions can help. In the next section, we’ll explain how IoT retail solutions can give you control over the data you collect. Having access to customized data for your business, restaurant or retail operation will allow you to generate more actionable insights to keep your organization running smoothly and increase your profit margin.
One of the most powerful aspects of IoT business solutions is their customizability. IoT systems can be customized both in their field of application and in the data they generate. The application of IoT systems to a retail environment is a relatively new, powerful technology. IoT systems have experienced significant success in other modalities of use, such as in fleet applications or in weather prediction and mapping. The success of IoT systems, regardless of the field of application, relies on their ability to provide large amounts of data in real-time, in a usable and actionable format. Additionally, this data can then be used to generate customizable alerts.
An IoT system consists of sensor nodes attached to key points of equipment of infrastructure. These sensor nodes collect the data that you specify, and then transmit that data in real-time to a cloud-based server system. Once in the cloud, the data is then run through an intelligent algorithm-based system where it is parsed and filtered down, and then transmitted to your data dashboard. The data can also be integrated with additional datasets. Data dashboards are software environments that can be customized to show you the specific data points you select, and display that information in a format that can be quickly assessed and acted upon. Additionally, your IoT data dashboard can be run on nearly any device, from a desktop PC to a tablet or mobile phone.
Once you have your IoT business solution in place, and your dashboard configured to display the information you need in a way that makes sense for you, you can configure customized alerts. Customized alerts function by setting thresholds for the data being collected from your sensors. Once the threshold is met, an alert can be sent to you or your management team’s mobile devices or computers to let you know that an event has taken place. Alerts can be sent in whatever manner is most convenient for you to quickly see and act upon, whether an email, in-app notification, or SMS. The alert will contact you and let you know that an event needs your attention.
The strength of using an IoT system with customized alerts lies in two specific areas. The first is that it allows you, the administrative user, to set the rules that generate an alert. This will allow you to quickly be aware of changing conditions within your operation that require your immediate attention. Because you are receiving the data in real-time, you can then act on that data quickly and efficiently, before the event becomes a larger problem.
For the restaurant industry, customized alerts can be an extremely powerful tool. Let’s take the example of a malfunctioning cooking surface or grill, and how restaurant alerts can change the dynamic of how quickly and efficiently you deal with the situation. You have placed sensors on your grill that stream data to your dashboard. This data includes cooktop temperature, ambient temperature in the room, and whether the cooktop is currently in use. You know that your grills should be operating at exactly 500°F to be at their most efficient usage, and also to safely prepare your food. You set an alert threshold to send you a notification on your phone whenever the cooking temperature, when the grill is in use, drops below 495°F, because at that point you know you can no longer determine whether the food is being prepared consistently or safely. Additionally, drops in temperature when the grill is in use may indicate that preventative maintenance needs to occur. With your restaurant alert in place, you are able to receive a message alerting you that the cooktop temperature has dropped below 495°F even while at a business meeting. Since you are able to receive the restaurant alert as it is happening, you can call the store manager and determine if the cooking surface is experiencing a malfunction. You might even be reacting to information before the staff member working on the grill has even noticed there is a problem. You can reallocate your staff to another grill and dispatch a maintenance technician to your restaurant site, all in a matter of minutes.
As can be seen by the preceding example, restaurant alerts can provide you with an unprecedented amount of information about your operations. Regardless of whether you are on or off site, restaurant alerts can dramatically improve how quickly and effectively you can act on events within your organization. Additionally, the flexible and customizable nature of IoT systems allows you to determine exactly what data you want to be gathering, how you want to view that data, and when to generate an alert for yourself or management.
IoT data systems are relatively new technology and have yet to be used to their fullest capabilities in restaurant and retail applications. Because of this, utilizing an IoT system in your restaurant or retail business can give you the competitive edge you need to succeed. IoT retail and business solutions provide more targeted, actionable data than ever before seen in these fields. They empower managers and business owners to implement real, lasting process improvements. In turn, this allows you to attain peak efficiency for your restaurant or retail venture. Ultimately, IoT retail and business solutions give you the data needed to have an unprecedented breadth of knowledge and control over your organization. They allow you to attend to the big picture of your operation, while still being aware of the everyday details. Lastly, with IoT retail and business solutions that are configured with customized alerts, you no longer have to be tied to a computer or specific location to stay informed. This flexibility allows you to be a more actively involved, efficient manager of both people and resources within your organization.