Embracing Data: A Path to Success in Hospitality

In the dynamic world of hospitality, decisions are often driven by intuition and gut feel rather than concrete data. However, my experience working across both the retail and hospitality sectors has shown me the immense value that data can bring to businesses when it comes to making better decisions and avoiding costly mistakes.

Retail and hospitality may seem like worlds apart, but there’s a compelling argument to suggest that they should operate more similarly. In retail, data reigns supreme, driving decision-making processes at every level. Conversely, the hospitality sector often relies on intuition, given its inherent complexity and focus on people and experiences.

At Hospitality Data Insights (HDI), we’ve witnessed first-hand the transformative power of data in helping businesses thrive in the hospitality sector. One of the key areas where data plays a pivotal role is in understanding customers. While internal data provides valuable insights, it only scratches the surface. Our card spending insight, tracking the spending behaviour of millions of people across the hospitality sector, offers a deeper understanding of customer behaviour, enabling businesses to tailor their marketing activities effectively. Questions that were once based on hunches and gut feel, such as identifying who your competitors are or understanding customer repertoires and how they’re changing over time, can now be definitively answered through data analysis.

Whilst there’s a vast array of data now available, integrating data into the fabric of the hospitality sector presents a cultural challenge. Data should not be seen as a threat to creativity or entrepreneurialism. Instead, it should be viewed as a catalyst for innovation. By validating or disproving hunches, and shedding light on the realities of customer behaviour and competitor performance, data empowers businesses to make informed decisions and drive sustainable growth.

Investing in data and insights should be seen as just that—an investment rather than a cost. While it may be tempting to cut corners in challenging economic times, businesses that prioritise understanding their customers, competitors, and local markets are better positioned for success in the long run. Being able to understand what your local market share is, and whether you’re seeing an increasing or decreasing “share of wallet” from your own customers, are key headline performance metrics which can help businesses cut through the noise and achieve much needed clarity around their performance. “Is it us or is it the market?” is a question that we frequently hear, and it’s one which data can answer definitively, freeing up management time to be focussed on what businesses should do as a result of what’s actually happening, rather than spending lots of time debating different opinions on performance.

The consequences of getting things wrong in the hospitality sector can be dire. For smaller operators, a single misstep, such as a poorly chosen site location, can spell disaster. This is where data truly shines. By leveraging insights to inform decisions on site selection, investments, and performance tracking, businesses can mitigate risks and capitalise on opportunities.

Whether in retail or hospitality, the value of understanding what’s truly happening in the market cannot be overstated. Data provides a comprehensive picture of customer behaviour, the competitor landscape, and market dynamics, offering a distinct competitive advantage. It’s time for businesses to embrace data as a source of opportunity and empowerment, rather than something to be feared or avoided.

In conclusion, as businesses navigate the ever-changing landscape of the hospitality sector, data will undoubtedly be their guiding light. By harnessing the power of data-driven insights, businesses can make better decisions, avoid costly mistakes, and ultimately, thrive in an increasingly competitive market.

Mark Bentley is the business development director of Hospitality Data Insights (HDI), provider of card spending insight and pricing data to the UK hospitality sector. He is a former category management controller at Molson Coors Beverage Company and a qualified beer sommelier.