At gourmet burger restaurant chain Red Robin, the beef patties aren't the only things being flipped these days. The company is in the throes of a meaty business transformation that, in part, rests on information gleaned from big-data analytics.
"I wouldn't necessarily anoint us great big-data experts or even practitioners at this point... but we do know you have to be really good at testing and learning from the data," Chris Laping, CIO and senior vice president of business transformation at the Greenwood Village, Colo., chain, told me in a phone interview.
Rather than go it alone on big-data analytics, Red Robin has partnered with a "really smart company to help do that test-and-learn stuff," Laping said. "And when you put that together with the business transformation capability, which you could more broadly define as change management, you're able to take action on this information that you've analyzed and these conclusions that you've reached."
Red Robin, for example, is in the process of whole-restaurant makeovers, thanks to insight it gleaned through a test-and-learn process. It's already tackled 30 such renovations, at $400,000 per location, and it is on target to do 50 more this year, Laping said.
The "really smart" partner helping with the test-and-learn is Applied Predictive Technologies, or APT, a cloud-based predictive analytics company that's built up a discipline and set of analytics tools for Red Robin. Its "high-touch analysts" interact with Red Robin, teaching it how to build the models, draw correlations and observations, and use the information, Laping said.
"One of the enablers for [our business transformation] was partnering with this group of data scientists," added Laping, who just earned recognition from Trace3, a business transformation solutions provider, as the winner of its 2014 Outlier Award.
The Outlier Award "honors exceptional individuals who consistently deliver dynamic innovation and outstanding leadership in the field of information technology," Trace3 said in a press release. Industry watchers largely credit Laping with "driving a remarkable turnaround at the better burger brand over the past three years," said Trace3, pointing to a stock price that's tripled since Laping took on responsibility for business transformation in early 2011.
The ability to interject big data is critical for any consumer-facing brand undergoing transformation (or period, for that matter), Laping said. "What a consumer-facing brand needs to be able to do with big data is bring the insights together so it knows: Transactionally, what did the guests do? Operationally, how do our systems tell us we performed against our standard? And then, how did our guest feel about it?"
At Red Robin, Laping wanted to bring together a variety of data, such as:
- Results from the 30,000 guest satisfaction surveys filled out monthly at tellredrobin.com
- Data from the 3 million members of Red Robin Royalty, its guest loyalty program
- Customer experience data gleaned from the social sphere
Being able to mash all of this together, he figured, "would give us a sense for predictability around behavior and what motivates behavior." If you can do that, he added, "then in the big-data world, youve done a big thing."
But a lot of companies, Red Robin included, have a hard enough time operating off of "small" data, Laping said. "What I mean by that, is that when you're a company like Red Robin that's been operating for 40-plus years with some set of information and some set of information not available, you really have to go through that cultural stair-stepping of getting organizationally more mature on what to do with the data when you do get it," he explained.
That, he said, is why we've seen the "whole movement around data scientists and the value they provide organizations."
Red Robin, with an aggressive transformation agenda, didn't have that kind of time on its hands, though -- hence the APT partnership. Over time, however, the story will change and Red Robin will build up the infrastructure and the data scientist capability it needs to do this work on its own, Laping said.
"This is not, by the way, a surprise to APT," he added. "It knows that this is the plan, and that's the nature of its business. Part of the value it provides is being able to help organizations get a lot more intelligent about what they do with their information."
In future posts, I'll share more about Red Robin's transformation and Laping's approach to big data, but for now, tell me what you think about what you've read so far. Have you been to a Red Robin lately? If so, is it one of the locations that has the new format? What was your experience?
Also, if you haven't already, take our quick poll at right. As you'll see, the topic is right in Red Robin's sweet spot -- outsourced analytics.
— Beth Schultz, , Editor in Chief, AllAnalytics.com