IoT & Big Data | A recipe for success at Cava restaurants

Mediterranean fast-casual restaurant chain Cava has doubled its US presence, in large part due to the innovative use of sensors and data.

As much as Cava has become known among US diners for its roasted red pepper hummus, among other Mediterranean delicacies, arguably the single biggest ingredient in the chain’s success so far has been the Raspberry Pi single-board computer. This powers a network of sensors to keep a close eye on customer waiting times, food-safety and even in-house congestion.

According to chief data scientist Josh Patchus, insights gleaned from the network improve Cava’s “ROI of experience” as he recently told Fast Company.

Read more: Food and grocery supply chains face IoT revolution, research suggests

The Cava experience

One part of the Cava experience, for example, is checking out the menu before ordering from the options at a counter. Sensors have been used to inform redesigns to menu boards and restaurant layouts to make this process as efficient as possible. Customers no longer make their minds up at the counter and off-putting lines are reduced as a result.

Temperature sensors in the kitchens, meanwhile, have helped chefs learn which parts of the sometimes inconsistent grill are the best temperature for cooking a particular product, to the point where food-quality complaints from customers have reduced by 28 percent.

Decibel readers have been placed near ordering stations to ensure queues and seating areas aren’t hindering customers’ ability to converse with restaurant staff. Layouts are adjusted to solve problems with noise.

By using sensors and analytics in this way, Cava has taken a marginal gains approach to the restaurant business and is reaping the rewards.

Discussing Cava’s approach to innovation, Josh Patchus believes that:

If you keep following the model, you’re narrowing the model. Data-driven design allows you take a risk, hopefully, that’s successful, and then you can broaden it out.

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