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Foodservice Analytics: Crack the Code


What challenges do manufacturers face with foodservice analytics? Common frustrations are complex technical requirements, inconsistent data, lack of repeatable methodology, long lead times, scarce resources, lack of expertise, singular points of view, lack of external context, & limited institutional processes.

If you’ve ever seen a small child wield an iPhone, you know the power of an intuitive user experience. Unfortunately, screens aren’t always easy to navigate…even for adults. Many foodservice analytics tools are so complex that even the NSA would be hard-pressed to crack the code.

In today’s thorny trade environment, it’s more critical than ever to master the cipher. We sat down with Scott Poitevent, Vice President of Strategy on our leadership team, to learn more about the foodservice industry’s analytics landscape and how the key to advanced insights lies in an intuitive user experience.


Blacksmith Blog: Scott, you’ve been talking to many foodservice executives about advanced analytics over the last few months. What are the common reporting challenges they face?

Scott Poitevent: Many ordinary data tools still require large amounts of technical knowledge to navigate. Timelines to generate answers to common business questions can be lengthy as a result.

Some of the most commonly cited frustrations include overly complex technical requirements, inconsistent data, lack of repeatable methodology, long lead times, scarce resources, lack of foodservice expertise among analytics resources, singular points of view, lack of external context, and limited institutional processes.



BB: Where does the industry stand with analytics innovation?

SP: Trade spend analytics has a long way to go. To use a baseball analogy, I’d say we’re somewhere in the 3rd inning. We’re literally inundated with data and manufacturers want to maximize the use of that data. However, the tools and methods available present the challenges I mentioned and it’s clear that manufacturers need a partner in their analytics endeavors.

BB: With data at the center of it all, do manufacturers have the data they need? And if they do have the right data, what’s the rub?

SP: Most manufacturers feel they have the data they need, and we’d generally agree with that. However, in many cases, the organization of that data is key and can present challenges. Hierarchies and segmentations are critically important to organize and categorize hundreds of thousands of data points and operators.

Furthermore, the methodology is always a struggle. Manufacturers may wonder what kind of lag to apply with operator business in the hopes of getting existing claim data into an analysis. We’ve taken care of this in our advanced analytics package and created proprietary algorithms and data transformations behind the scenes to always present a true picture of the business.

We listened to our customers’ frustrations and have created something that works, without any technical skills or special knowledge required on the part of the users.



BB: Blacksmith Applications has created an advanced analytics solution for foodservice manufacturers. Who will benefit?

SP: The dashboards in our advanced analytics platform were designed for two specific audiences. The first; Foodservice executives who need quick and digestible pictures of the business. The platform allows them to drill down one simple click at a time.

The second; managers and analysts who answer questions. These users need to know all the detail. Our dashboards and reports help them tell a complete story and generate action-oriented recommendations. Value-creation opportunities are clearly presented in the platform and identified up front. Access to the backup data is also available and analyses should there be a need for deeper understanding.

BB: The advanced analytics platform is highly visual. What are the benefits of this approach?

SP: Let’s face it, gaining insights from a table of information is particularly difficult and doesn’t yield answers quickly. Most of us are visual learners, so the new solution relies on design-thinking and intuitive presentations of data to help users uncover answers faster than ever before.

Our dashboards present with consistent layouts, drill down capabilities, contextual data associations, and are offered in a web-based format that is easy to access and requires no additional software or technical expertise to run.

This intuitive consumption approach makes complex reporting methodologies obsolete. We’re proud that our analytics approach is simple, thorough and accessible compared with ordinary tools on the market.

BB: What insights are covered in the latest dashboard configuration? How much customization is available?

SP: Version one focuses on a few key areas, namely operator performance and pricing. The operator dashboards are designed to give executives and analysts a comprehensive view of their operator business and to identify key drivers of performance.

Common questions answered include: How is my operator business doing overall? Where am I getting the best return on trade spend? What operators are over/underperforming across categories and product segments? What is my margin mix and how is that changing over time across segments and within specific accounts?

The pricing dashboards are designed to give executives and analysts insight into pricing decisions and relative performance. Identify areas of inefficient pricing and create opportunities for adjustments. Answer questions such as: What should the expected trade spend or net pricing be for a particular product? Where should we look to adjust pricing relative to expected values? What price or trade rate will get me a certain volume result?

Depending on the availability of data and the complexity of insights required, customization opportunities can be supported. We’re still admitting customers to our steering committee. If you want to be part of the influencer set, we would love to talk. Contact us and let us know you’d like to be part of the advanced analytics advisory board.

BB: Sounds like a great opportunity for innovators in trade management to influence the platform’s evolution. What else should manufacturers know if they are interested in advanced analytics or the advisory board?

SP: The platform delivers more than information. We’ve already identified savings and value creation opportunities equivalent to 4-12% of trade spend for several premier manufacturers. The payoff is significant and we’re just getting started! If you’d like to learn more about an analytics implementation and join our elite customer advisory board, let’s talk.