Arby's maps retail success with Tableau

When Arby’s Restaurant Group was renovating their store locations, they wanted to track changes to customer behavior. In this video, Karl Riddett talks about how the analytics team mapped stores in Tableau using point-of-sale data. They discovered an increase in sales at the remodeled locations, leading to five times more store remodels than the previous year.

Arby’s Restaurant Group is the franchisor of the well-loved American, fast casual brand.

When Arby’s Restaurant Group was renovating their chain of restaurants, they faced some questions. What happens to the customers when a restaurant closes for renovation? Where do they go? And do they come back when the restaurant reopens?

Mapping point of sale (POS) data in Tableau, the Business Intelligence team monitored the flow of customers to nearby locations during renovation periods. When the restaurants reopened, they saw customers flocking to renovated stores, proving that a fresh look attracted more business. Based on this knowledge, Arby’s executed five times the amount of remodels within a year and continued this effort throughout the following year.

In addition to remodels, the Arby’s team uses Tableau to analyze sales data, combined with survey and coupon information. The data helped them improve their ‘Give A Dollar’ charity program and saved the company money.

Tableau: Can you tell us a bit about the Arby’s brand?
Karl Riddett, Manager of Business Intelligence and Analytics: At Arby's, it's about inspiring smiles through delicious experiences. And that's what we want when anybody walks into the restaurant.

Tableau: Can you talk about your mapping in Tableau?
Karl: Mapping is a good way to visually show data, especially when you talk about a restaurant company. We've got restaurants all over the country. We've got hierarchies like most restaurant companies do. We've got areas and districts and regions. So we can map restaurants at those levels and we can aggregate them up using latitude and longitude.

We produced the Tableau dashboard, we put it out in the field, and the directors in the field made the changes. We're seeing operations actually make changes because they're able to see the data and see what was going on.

Tableau: How did you use mapping during the remodels?
Karl: In the remodel, we actually plotted the stores, their latitude and longitude, on a map. We would animate it over time, and as a store closed for remodel, you would see the stores around it—their sales would actually grow.

And then as the store reopened, the stores around it—the sales would shrink. And then they wouldn't recover because you've got this new, fancy store close by. So you could actually see customers migrating from old stores to remodeled stores.

Tableau: So that dashboard was a key part of the strategy?
Karl: What the dashboard has really helped them do is, one, to provide an accurate way to quickly track the progress of remodels week by week, but also prove that the remodels really do help. And we've increased the number of remodels from 2014 to 2015 by fivefold. And then I'm hearing in 2016 we're going to do more remodels. So it's shown that we need to spend more money remodeling our restaurants, freshening up the look, that it really has helped the business.

Tableau: What other benefits have you experienced?
Karl: Another unexpected benefit was in our remodel dashboard our Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A) group actually approached us and said, "We're tired of Excel taking six hours."

And this was a group that doesn't really care a whole lot about data visualization for the most part. We were able to partner with them, eliminate their six-hour process in Excel, still give them the grids that the finance guys like, but at the same time, give them a map that shows the progress of our remodeled restaurants and how it impacts other restaurants.

Tableau: How else are you using that data?
Karl: Now we're able to take some of our evaluation data and put it in a dashboard. We're able to take some of the other qualitative scores from the restaurant and start plotting that and showing ‘how does that relate to some other metrics?’

Tableau: What does that look like at the customer level?
Karl: When you look at a receipt that says, "Hey, I'm Karl and I bought a beef and cheddar combo and had a shake and used a coupon." All that information can be used for quantitative analysis. But if you can correlate it with a guest experience survey, now you can say this guy either had a good experience or he didn't. Is he likely to come back or is he likely to use a coupon again or whatever it is?

Tableau: Have you done any promotions around that information?
Karl: I’d say we are still early on the guest experience data. We just switched providers for that.
So I'd say the best story around that would be around a promotion that we did last year where a customer would give a dollar and then they'd get a $2 coupon back. And the "Give a Dollar" is for a charity.

Tableau: How did that go?
Karl: Our controller came to me and said, "Hey, could you see what we can do with Tableau because we're seeing some funny things with the data coming in." They could tell something wasn't right, but they didn't know what it was.

Tableau: What did you do?
Karl: We produced the dashboard, we put it out in the field, and the directors in the field made changes. And you could see that we got the issue corrected. So we're seeing operations actually make changes because they're able to see the data and see what was going on.

That was a real financial impact that saved the company some money and saved our foundation some money as well.

Tableau: What impact has Tableau had at Arby's? Has it increased collaboration?
Karl: So a couple ways we've used Tableau to break some of those data silos down. One is through the analytics committee. We meet monthly and it's a group of about 45 or 50. I don't know the exact head count now, but we meet monthly and we talk about what we're working on from an analytics perspective.

The other way Tableau has helped us break down silos is through the Tableau Server component. So we have a lot of people we have found that actually troll the Server and look for other people's work and say, "What are they working on?" And they will actually download it and take a look and say, "Hey, I like what Alex did here, or I like what Ken did here. Let me see how they did that."

Plus, it also says, “Okay, FP&A is producing a report on this metric over here. I was about to do a report on it. Maybe we don't need to duplicate our work.” So that's helped as well. It gives one place for people to go to and see what's going on. We didn't have that before at Arby's.

Tableau: Have you seen fiscal benefits from using Tableau?
Karl: We've had definitely financial ROI. I'm talking about that issue that we had before (with the charity program) that we found the operations. There was a financial impact there of an ROI.

I think the real ROI that we're seeing is with certain people being able to really fully express themselves and what they want to do in their role and answer questions like that.

Tableau: Can you share more about your data strategy?
Karl: Our strategy is self-serve business intelligence. We don't want to be a report factory or a dashboard factory in IT. We are going to create a lot of content, we are going to create some new ideas and innovation, but we want to partner with the business so that they can move on and go farther.

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