IBM, Cheesecake Factory Team on Big Data Analytics

IBM announced that The Cheesecake Factory is using Big Blue’s big data analytics technology to help provide its customers with better food and experiences.

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LAS VEGAS -- IBM announced that The Cheesecake Factory is using IBM big data analytics to help deliver the highest quality experience to its customers.

With 180 restaurants -- more than 175 restaurant locations across the United States and three licensed locations in the Middle East – and serving more than 80 million guests each year, with 200 menu items made fresh from scratch in each of its restaurant locations worldwide, The Cheesecake Factory deals with large volumes and variety of data on a daily basis generated by its complex, global food supply chain.

The daily data deluge includes information ranging from transportation of food at the right temperature to ensuring a fresh food supply to information on product withdrawals and shelf life of food items. One of the key challenges for The Cheesecake Factory is to be able to glean instant insight from this massive amount and variety of information, also known as big data, to better serve its guests and to deliver an exceptional dining experience, said Donald Moore, Chief Culinary Officer at The Cheesecake Factory. Moore was in attendance at the IBM PartnerWorld Leadership Conference 2013 here, where IBM announced its relationship with the restaurant chain.

Using IBM big data analytics built on IBM Power Systems and IBM business partner, N2N Global's solution, The Cheesecake Factory has the ability to quickly alert restaurant locations to remove any ingredient that does not meet its high standards for quality and consistency, or in the event of a product withdrawal. With this technology, The Cheesecake Factory can further ensure the highest level of quality and food safety for its guests.

Indeed, Angela Nardone, chairman of N2N Global, said N2N entered into its effort with The Cheesecake Factory through a quality assurance engagement.

“We came in through the QA department,” to help the company guarantee the safety of its food products, she said. “The Cheesecake Factory is a different breed of restaurant; they focus on freshness – the way they run their kitchen is just different.”

“When you look at things financially, two things that matter most are food costs and labor costs,” Moore said. “So there’s a significant amount of collaboration, especially around making technology decisions. We use a significant amount of technology in our kitchen that a lot of our competitors don’t. We want to give people something they can’t make at home. We have a culinary compass that we live by. And the way we get there is by sourcing the world’s greatest ingredients.”

In the event that an ingredient does not meet The Cheesecake Factory’s specifications such as taste, color or consistency, the company is able to communicate critical supply chain data instantly with a single point of view alleviating the cumbersome tasks of manually inputting or accessing this information, Moore said. This also brings new efficiencies to The Cheesecake Factory's operations as managers are able to focus more time on quality of operations versus spending time on data entry.

“We’re an operations company, meaning the operators are going to make the decisions on what’s going to happen in the restaurant,” Moore said.”The key kitchen decisions are made through operations with a strong collaboration with the CIO.”

According to the National Restaurant Association, restaurant sales top $660 billion and have a global impact of over $1.8 trillion annually. With almost one million restaurant locations in the United States alone, food service operators face a daunting challenge tackling big data while delivering an unmatched brand experience for its guests.

“By analyzing big data, restaurants will know what they need to do to stay fresh, evolve, and maintain an emotional relationship with their customers,” Nardone said in a blog post. “Big data captures the bulk of disparate information of consumer interactions with brands, as well as with others in their circles of influence. Capturing this big data content is a daily opportunity for every restaurant, and creates a new level of brand awareness both for the brand and for the consumer.”

It all comes down to the customer and the customer experience, Moore said. “For the guests we’re after absolute guest satisfaction. We want to provide amazing food at an attractive price. It is our ultimate goal to deliver the best dining experience to our guests. With 180 restaurants globally and expanding, it is critical that we have the tools to ensure a fantastic dining experience for our guests in every restaurant from Beverly Hills to Kuwait City. We use big data analytics to make our restaurants safe and make sure our products are great.”

“Advanced analytics technology helps us better leverage big data to ensure freshness and quality for our guests,” said Ata Baroudi, vice president of Quality Assurance & Food Safety for The Cheesecake Factory, in a statement. “We collect and maintain large amounts of data. N2N Global and IBM are assisting us with utilizing this data to better maintain the highest standard of quality."