Restaurants, Customers, and Big Data

Your next dinner out may be better because of big data.

When most people think of big data, they probably envision big corporations using extensive collections of data to make high-level decisions. But, with the help of the online reservation company, OpenTable, restaurants are starting to use big data to improve their services to diners and help their restaurants run more efficiently.

Neal Underleider of Fast Company reports on the way OpenTable is using the data provided by visitors as they are making their reservations. Some of this information is obvious - data like zip codes, number of diners, and reservation dates and times is part of the restaurant reservation process. But OpenTable's data analytics can also provide details about how far in advance people make reservations, which types of restaurants certain demographic segments prefer, and how likely diners are to leave a restaurant review after their meal. OpenTable is offering restaurants the ability to access this data. With it they may have a better idea about whether you'd like to eat indoors or on the patio, and what type of drinks you'd prefer. A restaurant that is better prepared to provide the dining experience you want, is more likely to have satisfied, repeat customers. And that's good for everybody!

Supporting Web Links
Discussion Questions/Activities
  1. This article offers an opportunity to look at some of the different ways data and databases can be used. You may want to discuss the differences between commercial databases designed for large corporations and those used by smaller companies and individuals.
  2. Assign students to small groups. Each group should select a small local business or organization and research the way they utilize data. If possible, teams should be encouraged to interview the owner or the individual responsible for the company's IT services to obtain his or her view. How does the company handle their database requirements – in-house, outsourced, in the cloud, etc.? Each group should present their findings in a brief paper or as a presentation.
  3. As an individual project, ask students to locate another example of the ways different companies or industries are using big data. Students may want to review the articles in the Supporting Web Links section for additional ideas. Students should write a brief paper or create a presentation to share their findings with the class.


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