Food for thought: too much data to digest?

Welcome to our food and hospitality blog series!

Recipe Data Journey Infographic Final

Let’s face it: you’ve got a lot of data on your plate. 

Every ingredient, in every dish, collects masses of data on its journey to your table.

Grower information, storage statistics, allergens, nutrition statistics, price points...

It’s a lot to digest. 

So much so, that most food and hospitality businesses struggle to turn the masses of data available to them into something palatable: information that actually brings insight to their supply chain and opportunities to the table.

It’s time to change that.

In the hospitality industry, we’re past the point where data is a ‘disruptor’. It’s a key ingredient. Put the big digital innovators – UberEats, Deliveroo, etc – aside for a moment and look to some of the smallest hospitality businesses in your area. Even family-run pizzerias and sandwich shops are using data to support online delivery, bookings, traceability, marketing and more, without even mentioning the most vital use of data in our industry: allergen information. 

In short, simply collecting and using data isn’t enough. We’ve all got data – too much of it, in fact, thanks to the Big Data boom. For that data to make a difference, you need to have a vision of what you want to achieve with it.

Improved cost margins? Quicker reactions to trends? An innovative project that will attract new customers? Deciding on your data goal is the first step to getting impact from your data. The second is understanding that data, how it flows through your supply chain, and the problems that can occur at every link in the chain, from the farm to your customer’s fork.

In hospitality, most ‘data goals’ can be put into one of two categories: pain vs gain. 

Let’s start sunny side up: gain

As we’ve seen from those disruptive businesses we mentioned earlier, data can be a powerful differentiator. It can create new opportunities and enable you to add extra value to your customers – by offering bespoke experiences and marketing, online orders and reservations, or customisable menu options (for example, showing only vegan or nut-free options). 

There can be even greater scope for positive change internally. Data can drive new practices throughout the business – from leadership teams to serving staff – that have a huge impact on cost and time efficiency, while freeing up resources to pursue initiatives and ideas. You may even discover opportunities with data that radically transform your business. 

Now for the flip side: pain

Maybe you’re addressing your data because something has gone wrong. A data error has cost you £300k a year on purchasing the wrong ingredient. You can’t keep up with customer demand and it’s costing you business. You’ve accidently ordered the wrong stock profile thanks to a data glitch, and now there are two dozen boxes of frozen peas blocking your car park. 

Disasters like these are often a call to action to dramatically change the way you process your data, but there are some issues that you want to address before you encounter them. The spate of allergy deaths reported in the news over the last year has highlighted the fact that, when it comes to food, data isn’t just about closing margins and creating winning marketing campaigns. It can be a matter of life or death. 


Once you have your data vision, how do you make it a reality?

To create a recipe for digital success, you need to look at the data you have, the data you need, and the way that data is handled at every link in the chain – regardless of any technology you are using or intend to use.

Think of your data as ingredients: you need to put in the right data to get the result you want, and quality is crucial. 

Now think of every person handling that data as a chef. Every one of them needs to know what recipe it is you’re making, and how to quality control the ingredients – or data – they’re adding to the mix.

Without everyone reading from the same page and considering the quality of the data going in, you won’t get the result you want out.

Jeff Sheldon 6 Mt4 Ut8A3 Y Unsplash


Coming up...

At Comma, we work with clients during digital transformation, creating data management strategies that enable them to achieve their data goals.

In our latest series of blogs, we’ll be looking at the most common ‘pains’ and ‘gains’ in the food distribution and hospitality sector, and show how effective data management can make a difference at every step in the supply chain.

Allergens:  Are you confident that you have a full understanding of the allergens in your supply chain - from production and storage to preparing and serving?



Cost:  How much do your recipes really cost? Are you over-enrolling servers and chefs at off-peak hours? More detailed insight means narrower margins.

Stock issues:  Over ordering, under ordering, failing to customise stock orders for different outlets...stock issues can range from minor to major, but many go unnoticed.  

Consistency:  How can you maintain consistency across different locations, suppliers, and teams – and what can cohesive data bring to the business?



Logistics:  Using data to understand the way your produce is prepared, shipped, stored and served, to tighten up your logistics.

Adding value:  Whether it’s online ordering, menu customisation, or an innovative new use for data, understand how to put data to work in the digital age.

Responding to trends:  Still serving maris piper when it’s all about sweet potato fries? We’ll show you how you can respond quickly to trends using digital insight and implementation.


Find out more about Comma’s services here or call us on +44 1926 911820 to talk to us about your strategy and what we can do to help.