When you think of big data, you usually think of applications like banking, healthcare, or manufacturing. After all, these are some pretty massive industries with many use cases for data analytics, and the rise of business intelligence software is answering that data management need. However, it isn’t limited to only these fields. While data science is a relatively young field, more and more industries are jumping on the data gold rush. What’s the motive? Well, as you’ll see in this post, casinos, restaurants, and bars that are embracing this cutting edge aspect are being rewarded for it through increased profits. While these industries are traditionally slow to adopt new innovations, there are some front-runners who are leading the pack. All of this just goes to show – big data can show up to deliver benefits in some surprising areas. In this post, we’ll examine 5 big data examples changing the entertainment and hospitality industries, and changing your daily life in the process.
1) Big Data Is Making Fast Food Faster
The first of our big data application examples will be in fast-food. You pull up to your local McDonald’s or Burger King, and notice that there’s a really long line in front of you. You start drumming your fingers on the wheel, lamenting the fact that your “fast food” excursion is going to be anything but, and wondering if you should drive to the Wendy’s a block away instead.
However, before you have time to think about your culinary crisis too deeply, you notice that a few cars ahead of you have already gone through. The line is moving much quicker than expected… what gives? You shrug it off, drive up to the window, and place your order.
Behind The Scenes
What you may not have realized is that big data has just helped you to eat that fries and burger a little bit faster. Some fast food chains are now monitoring their drive through lanes and changing their menu features (you know, the ones on the LCD screen as opposed to the numbers on the board) in response. Here’s how it works: if the line is really backed up, the features will change to reflect items that can be quickly prepared and served so as to move through the queue faster. If the line is relatively short, then the features will display higher margin menu items that take a bit more time to prepare.
Now that’s some smart fast food.
2) Self-Serve Beer and Big Data
Another great real world big data example. You walk into your favorite bar. The bartender, instead of asking you, “What’ll you have?” hands you a little plastic card instead.
“Uhhh… what’s this?” you ask. He spreads his hands. “Well, the folks upstairs wanted to try out this new system. Basically, you pour all your own beer – you just swipe this card first.”
Your eyebrows raise. “So, basically… I have to be my own bartender from now on?”
The bartender snorts and shakes his head. “I mean, I’ll still serve you if you’d like. But with this system, you can try as little or as much of a beer as you want. Want a quarter glass of that new IPA you’re not sure about? Go right ahead. Want a half glass of that stout since you’re a bit full from dinner? Be my guest. It’ll all get automatically added to your tab and you pay at the end, just like normal.”
You nod, starting to get the picture. “And if I want to mix two different beers together -”
“No,” the bartender says. “Never do that.”
Behind The Scenes
You might think this scenario is from some weird beer science fiction book, but in reality, it’s already happening. An Israeli company by the name of Weissberger has enabled self-serve beer through two pieces of equipment:
- “Flow meters” which are attached to all the taps/kegs in the bar
- A router that collects all of this flow data and sends it to the bar’s computer
Using this system, many cool things are possible. For example, you can let customers pour their own beer in a “self-serve” style fashion. However, there are other profitable possibilities as well that come from the use of big data. Bar owners can use these flow meters to see which beers are selling when, according to the time of day and the day of the week and so on. Then, they can use this data to create specials that take advantage of customer behavior.
They can also use this data to:
- Order new kegs at the right time, since they know more accurately how much beer they are serving
- See if certain bartenders are more “generous” with their pours than others
- See if certain bartenders are giving free pours to themselves or their buddies
An article titled “Using Big Data to Brew Profits One Pint at a Time” showcases the results. In Europe, the brewing company Carlsberg found that 70% of their beer sold in city bars was bought between 8-10 pm, while only 40% of their beer sold in suburban bars was bought in that time period. Using this data, they could develop market-specific prices and discounts.
Carlsberg also found that when customers were given a magnetic card and allowed to self-pour beer, they ended up consuming 30% more beer than before. This increased consumption came from customers trying small amounts of beer that they wouldn’t have bought before when they were limited to buying a full pint or larger.
3) Consumers Are Deciding The Overall Menu
Have you ever seen one of those marketing campaigns companies use where consumers help them “pick the next flavor?” Doritos and Mountain Dew have both used this strategy with varying levels of success. However, the underlying philosophy is sound: let the customers pick what they want, and then supply them!
Well, big data is letting customers speak even more directly (and without having to go to a web page). An article titled “The Big Business of Big Data” examines some of the possibilities.
One example is that of Tropical Smoothie Cafe. In 2013, they took a slight risk and introduced a veggie smoothie to their previously fruit smoothie only menu. By keeping track of their data, Tropical Smoothie Cafe found that the veggie smoothie was soon one of their best sellers, and they introduced other versions of vegetable smoothies as a result.
Things get deeper: Tropical Smoothie Cafe was able to use big data to see at what times during the day consumers were buying the most vegetable smoothies. Then, they could use time specific marketing campaigns (such as “happy hours”) to get consumers in the door during those times.
4) Big Data Makes Your Next Casino Visit More Fun
Another great big data example applied in real life is with casinos. You walk into the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, excited for a weekend of gambling and catching up with old friends. Immediately, you notice a change. Those slot machines that you played endlessly on your last visit have moved from their last spot in the corner to a more central location right at the entrance. Entranced by fond memories of spinning numbers and free drinks, you walk right on over.
Behind The Scenes
“Our job is to figure out how to optimize the selection of games so that people have a positive experience when they walk through the door… We can understand how games perform, how well they’re received by guests and how long they should be on the floor.”
This quote is from Lon O’Donnell, MGM’s first-ever director of corporate slot analytics. An article titled “Big Data is Big Money at MGM Casinos” expands on why MGM felt the need to create this position. Think about business from a casino’s point of view for a moment. Casinos have an interesting relationship with their customers. Of course, in the long run, they want you to lose more money than you win – otherwise, they wouldn’t be able to make a profit. However, if you lose a large amount of money in any one visit, you might have such a bad experience that you stop going altogether… which is bad for the casino. On the flip side, they also want to avoid situations where you “hit it big”, as that costs them a lot of money.
Basically, the ideal situation for a casino is when you lose more than you win over the long run, but you don’t lose a horrendous amount in any one visit. Right now, MGM is using big data to make sure that happens. By analyzing the data from individual slot machines for example, they can tell which machines are paying out what, and how often.
They can also tell things like:
- What machines aren’t being played and need to be replaced or relocated
- What machines are the most popular (and at what times)
- What areas of the casino pull in the most profits (and what areas need to be rearranged)
5) We Missed You!
Our final big data example in real life will be with restaurants. Imagine this: you’re relaxing at home, trying to decide what restaurant you want to go out to with your spouse. You live in NYC and work long hours, and there’s just so many options. The decision is taking a bit longer than it should as you’ve had a long week and your brain is fried.
Suddenly, an email arrives in your inbox. Delaying your food choices for a moment (and ignoring the withering glare of your spouse as you drop out of the conversation) you see an email from Fig & Olive, a delicious Mediterranean restaurant that you last went to about a month ago. Before that, you were frequent patrons at this delicious joint – but recently you hadn’t had the chance to go out. The email is titled “We Miss You!” and when you open it, you’re greeted with a message that communicates two points:
- Fig & Olive is wondering why you haven’t been in for a while.
- They want to give you a free order of crostini because they want you to come back in!
“Honey”, you exclaim, “I know where we’re going!”
Behind The Scenes
The 7 unit NY-based Fig & Olive has been using guest management software to track their guests ordering habits and to deliver targeted email campaigns. For example, the “We Miss You!” campaign generated almost 300 visits and $36,000 in sales – a 7 times return on the company’s investment into big data.
Big data is changing the way we eat, drink, and gamble in ways that make our lives as consumers easier and more entertaining. What’s even more exciting is that we’re only at the beginning of its adoption in the restaurant and entertainment industries. For more examples of big data applications, you can read our blog posts on big data in logistics, in american football or in politics!