I’ve always advocated that food delivered by conveyor belt is the best kind. You can get a look at the whole left side of the menu upon sitting down as opposed to reading an overly wordy menu and waiting for the meal to be prepared.
In Japan, the top household name in the conveyor belt sushi restaurant market is Akindo Sushiro. Currently, it operates approximately 430 restaurants nationwide, from Hokkaido to Okinawa, employing a total of about 40,000 full-time and part-time workers. The company welcomes 120 million customers annually (roughly the population of Japan) and they serve approximately 1 billion plates of sushi every year!
With so many transactions taking place on a daily basis, Akindo Sushiro fit all of its plates with RFID tags, which allows the business to monitor important metrics like freshness and sales trends. The restaurant tracks when and what sushi was placed on the conveyor belt at which restaurant; when was it eaten or disposed of and which tables ordered what sushi and when. Of course, those 1 billion plates of sushi means 1 billion data records being logged every year. That means their prior method of analysis (Microsoft Excel) was quickly becoming inefficient. The software could only handle the most recent data as the yearly volume was too much to process. This made trend-based analysis very difficult.
“We thought that, in order to effectively utilize the previously accumulated data and incorporate it into restaurant management, operational improvements and the development of new products, first and foremost, it was essential that we build a solid information infrastructure.” -Information Systems Division, Akindo Sushiro
Gaining insights from all of this data was of high importance to Akindo Sushiro, not just for the Information Systems Division, but for other divisions with limited familiarity with data analysis. As an example, the day-to-day job of a restaurant manager does not typically involve data analysis, which meant it was very important to find a platform that was easy to understand.
Additionally, the platform needed to adapt with the restaurant’s unique business model. For example, the restaurant’s sushi menu will change frequently because of new sales campaigns, and that creates regular fluctuations in food waste. A reduction in waste of even one percent could mean a reduction in costs worth the equivalent of just under $1 million in US currency. In June 2012, Akindo Sushiro began reviewing a platform to fill their needs as part of a seminar organized by Ricoh Japan Corporation:
“We came across Qlik while considering platforms capable of analyzing our existing 4 billion rows of data plus another minimum 1 billion being accumulated each year. We were really surprised by the high degree of freedom and rich capabilities in analysis.” – Akindo Sushiro
By September, Akindo Sushiro was convinced: introducing the platform and launching it using Amazon Web Services, which allows the Information Systems Division to scale as the data continues to grow. With added support help from local partner Ashisuto, soon after selecting Qlik, numerous other departments began to use it to gain a comprehensive view of their data. The Merchandise Division, the Corporate Planning Division, even the Head Office jumped onboard to use Qlik for sales analysis and new product development. Report requests that previously took three to four days for data extraction were reduced to one day no matter how complex the request.
The benefits for Akindo Sushiro were realized quickly as pointed out by Akihiro Onoe of the Corporate Planning Division who analyzed a popular dessert item using Qlik:
“This particular product accounted for a fair proportion of dessert sales, and so we thought it was shoring up our overall dessert sales. However, when changing the menu, we had to remove that product, but it didn’t have as much of an impact on dessert sales as expected. Our thinking was nothing more than a preconception. The truth only came to light once we had analyzed sales of related products on Qlik.”
These were exactly the type of insights that Akindo Sushiro envisioned back when the company was using Excel spreadsheets and macros for data processing. Now, those dessert items taste just a little bit sweeter.