One of the more vexing problems of managing a restaurant is trying to get a granular understanding of what’s happening on a daily basis, and then figuring out how to make incremental improvements that could affect the bottom line. Why do you always run out of a certain dish on the first Tuesday of the month? Why does one server always get customers who spend more money on wine? And how can you know which customers are more likely than others to respond to a pricier menu suggestion?
Providence, R.I.-based data analytics company Swipely, which manages over 11 million meals per month across its network of businesses, has been working since 2010 to bring some of the actionable insights of big data to restaurateurs.
The company announced this morning that it is changing its name to Upserve, and is expanding its suite of products aimed at helping restaurateurs optimize their sales and service, and manage their business on the fly.
Street Fight sat down with founder and CEO Angus Davis at Upserve’s office in downtown Providence last week to discuss his vision for the company and demo some of the new features. Davis said that while the Swipely name had served the company well, it had come to suggest more of a horizontal payments solution — and that Upserve spoke more to the company’s deep focus on restaurants.
“We’re taking all of the information that exists in a restaurant and putting it in one place,” said Davis.
One feature Davis was particularly excited about was the launch of the company’s first mobile app, which features a real-time dashboard for single or multi-unit restaurants with information about sales and labor performance.
“Restaurateurs operate on notoriously thin margins, and things in a restaurant move very fast,” said Davis. “So taking your eye off of that for even just an hour or two to go to your daughter’s dance recital or have dinner with your mother — a lot of [restaurant managers] feel like they don’t have that luxury. They can’t get away. They feel like they need to be at the restaurant in order to know everything’s going to be okay.”
Davis says that the purpose of the mobile app is to allow managers to get away from the restaurant for a period of time and still feel like they’re on top of things: “It lets them get out of the restaurant for a while and still feel like they’re there.” Managers can also compare and contrast real-time performance across multiple units.
Another new feature being launched today is called “Shift Prep” which essentially works like a playbook that restaurant managers can use to understand what’s likely to happen in the evening’s service. The feature integrates Upserve’s data from table management, point of sale and CRM systems and generates a daily report that predicts how busy the restaurant will be throughout the coming evening. Using artificial intelligence and machine learning, the system factors for weather, reservations, previous trends on specific days of the week, and other variables, and creates a visualization of the comping dinner service that managers can discuss with servers (example below).
Restaurant managers can also drill down deeper into the individual reservations and can see all of the past activity from repeat guests, including menu items they ordered in the past. In the case of multi-location restaurants, the manager can see information about the guest history (including what they ordered) across all of the restaurant’s different locations.
“We give them a dossier of everyone who is coming in tonight,” said Davis. “Say they see it’s Cheryl — it shows the last time she came in, she had this server, she spent this much money.”
Marrying this kind of CRM data to POS can also yield a lot of interesting potential future uses. Davis said there are more than 16 million active diners (people who have bought meals at network restaurants in the past year) in Upserve’s “Guest Book” system. Using this mass of data over time, Upserve can get to know the restaurant ordering habits of diners across a wide variety of restaurants in local areas. Davis says that the company treats each restaurant’s CRM data as separately owned — but one can imagine an anonymized aggregation that could yield understanding of a sudden regional spike of interest in Fish Tacos, for example.
Other tools in the company’s suite can measure server performance, analyze sales, and chart the varying popularity of different menu items.
“We’re thinking about how technology can make the restaurant guest experience better, and how it can run smoother from the management side,” said Davis.
Upserve has raised $40.5 million in venture funding over several rounds, and is backed by First Round Capital, Shasta Ventures, Index Ventures, Pritzker Group and Greylock Partners, among others.
David Hirschman is a co-founder of Street Fight.