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PIM Reporting in F&B Industry

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On numerous occasions, many of us visit restaurants and hotels in order to satiate our cravings for delicious food and drinks along with getting a break from our daily mundane eating habits at our respective homes. We arrive at the restaurant or the hotel and peruse the Food and Drink Menu that is placed there at our disposal and often get transfixed by the visually appealing and informative dishes neatly arranged as per the meal course.

Let us pause here a bit. Did we ever give a thought as to how the information displayed into the Menu got there in the first place? What if the nutritional, calorific, allergen, pricing information of the dishes displayed in the Menu were incorrect especially in countries like UK, Unites States where Food safety laws are extremely strict? What if wrong allergen information is displayed onto the Menu leading to extreme distress for the meal taker and eventually leading to him/her filing a lawsuit against the restaurant or the hotel which in turn results in extreme financial distress and loss in mindshare for the latter? What if the pricing of a dish was incorrectly showing as exorbitant and out of reach for the restaurant / hotel’s target segment due to a small mistake by the firm’s data entry personnel resulting in extremely less or no demand though the Chef might have put innovative ingredients in the dish which might be first of its kind for the gourmets and connoisseurs?

There can be numerous other “What Ifs” with much serious repercussions for the restaurant or hotel business and ultimately the brand. For many Food and Beverages (F&B) company (even some larger ones), the information pertaining to the products (purchased from different suppliers), suppliers and distributors (with which the company is doing business with), ingredients and dishes are still stored and processed using excel spreadsheets (from individual business functions) and prone to manual errors, silo, redundancy and large number of manual tasks resulting in huge business man-hours getting drained which could have been effectively utilized for more innovative and fruitful activities leading to enhanced business value generation for the restaurant and the hotel. Unfortunately, rigid stakeholders often resist the Digital Transformation which might incur a huge change in the BAU processes and might even make some of their jobs redundant (though ultimately beneficial for the company’s operating profits).

Adoption of PIM

In order to reduce and ultimately remove the impediments faced by the F&B business, many firms are adopting PIM, which might be home-grown or purchased from a vendor with each having its own Pros and Cons. However, this is not the aim of this Whitepaper and hence we shall park it for the time being. The PIM platform shall enable the business to build a unified and centralized data platform providing a single view of the firm’s product, ingredients and Dish data along with robust integrations with downstream and upstream systems.

Typical F&B business is usually segregated into Buy and Sell Side.

Let us familiarise ourselves with some of the buy and sell side concepts used in F&B industry in brief which shall help going forward in this whitepaper.

  • Buy Side – The main entities involved here are Products and Suppliers. The F&B business purchases products from various suppliers and stores the product and supplier information. Typical product information includes allergen, nutrition, calorific and cost of purchase
  • Sell Side – The main entities involved here are Ingredients, Dishes, Menu Items, Sites and Menu. Ingredients are the smallest unit of products (for e.g. if 5Kg / 10Kg / 20Kg of potatoes represent individual products then 1kg of potato shall always be the ingredient for these potatoes products) which is used to make up a Dish (say Chips) which in turn can be linked to multiple Menu Items (say Evening Chips, Value Chips and so on) to be sold at the tills of the individual sites which are the restaurants / hotels. These Menu Items in turn make up the Menu which ultimately gets displayed onto the Guest websites or tills or in printed copies.

The typical business functions usually involved in F&B industry are:

  • Procurement – This business function deals with the procurement of the products from the various suppliers
  • Food and Beverages – This business function deals with the preparation of the Ingredients, Dishes and Menus as to which products should make up an Ingredient, which Ingredients should make up a Dish and which Dishes should be a part of a Menu
  • Finance – This business function deals with the Dish Costs and Selling Prices and performing forecast of the same
  • Nutrition – This business function deals with the calorific, allergen and nutritional information of Products, Ingredients and Dishes
  • Digital – This business function deals with the Menu Items information and keying in the same before the Menu goes live and gets displayed in Guest Websites
  • Marketing – This business function deals with the presentation of the Menu information in Guest Websites and also printing hard copies of the same

These business functions in turn have various requirements for operational reports in order to assist them in their daily tasks and in an ideal world; they should have been able to pull out the reports directly from the PIM platform. However unfortunately PIM has some limitations in the reporting area.

Why pulling out reports directly from PIM can be challenging?

Any PIM application typically stores data in the form of objects and the related ones are interconnected using references. For example, in order for PIM to know which ingredients a Dish uses, PIM needs to store references between the Dish and the Ingredient objects along with the cardinality of the same. In a typical F&B world of reporting, the various business functions need data comprising various fields, which in turn need to use PIM attributes from various interconnected objects. For example, Finance might have a requirement of seeing the selling prices of Dish / Recipes for the different price tiers per brand and Menu. In order to implement the same, the PIM tool needs to parse the Brand then Menu then the selling price / price tiers attributes of the referenced Dishes, which are also linked via sub-menus (which are the courses) to the Menu. Now this is challenging a PIM tool to show the above information in a user-friendly manner; usually it clubs the target objects of the references in a semi colon delimited manner making the reports extremely difficult to read and interpret for the business user. Hence, the need arises for PIM to be integrated with a downstream Operational Data Store (ODS) which shall be specifically built for reporting purpose.

PIM integration with an Operational Data Store (ODS)

PIM maintenance and approved data can be integrated with a downstream ODS in real time or batch manner with each having its own pros and cons as stated below.

The reporting requirements (for the particular client comprising leading UK hotel chains) were met by batch integrating PIM and ODS as the diagram below suggests.

As the diagram above depicts, the downstream ODS receives entire PIM XML extracts (through Outbound Integration End Points) from both maintenance and approved workspaces and hence the data contained in ODS shall be a replica of the PIM at a given point in time. This ODS can be any database but for this customer, the ODS is in Microsoft Azure Data lake with ODS converting the XMLs in relational table format and then logic implemented there for meeting the business requirements for each of the business reports (to be discussed later in subsequent sections). The business users shall pull out the reports from a data visualization tool (Power BI for this customer as the diagram above depicts). The advantage of integrating the PIM platform with downstream ODS is that in future the ODS platform can also be integrated with systems comprising transactional data hence leading to more complex reporting business requirements getting fulfilled. Also this ODS platform can be used to store history of objects and attributes leading to historical reporting business needs getting fulfilled.

Reports business requirements for Procurement business function

Procurement business is involved in the buy side business processes whereby the restaurant or hotel purchases products from various Suppliers. These products then have to go through a number of approval processes before being accepted into the business landscape. At any stage of the approval processes, it can be rejected and therefore not come into the business landscape at all. These approval processes are governed by workflows, which sends the product information back and forth between the procurement and supplier teams. It is during the buy side stage when this function requires some reports pertaining to the below business needs:

  1. For the new products, which are going through the various approval stages in buy side workflows, a report displaying the product information along with the workflow state in which it is in.
  2. For the products which have been accepted and approved (post all the approval workflow steps), a report displaying the stocking policies and the regions where they are going to be stocked.
  3. For the products which have been approved, a report detailing all the product information which gets ultimately sent to the Trade Team partner

Please note that the above reports pertain to product data, which either can be in maintenance or approved.

Reports business requirements for Food & Beverages business function

Food and Beverages business function is involved in end-to-end Menu development process. This Menu can be Food or Drink. During this process the different products, ingredients for a Menu are created through workflows. Dishes also are created through workflows and the ingredients are linked to it. These workflows pertain to the various approval steps the products, ingredients and Dishes has to go through in order to be part of a Menu which is going to be launched in the near future. However, sometimes creating Menu afresh can be quite a tedious task and hence this business function does a copy of an expired menu in the system (say Spring 2017 Menu) in order to build say Spring 2019 Menu where all the products, Ingredients and Dishes of the old Menu gets copied over to the new Menu. Then the business function also has the provision to either retain, amend or remove the Dishes that have been copied over. In this entire Menu development process, this business function needs to pull out some reports pertaining to the below business needs.

  1. For the new Menu, a report showcasing which are the Dishes which are newly added or going to be amended (in case of menu created via copy) or going to be removed (in case of menu created via copy).
  2. For the new Menu, a report showcasing which are the products/ingredients which are entering new to the entire restaurant or hotel business (as part of Dish addition to the Menu) or entering new to the particular brand only for which the Menu is being created or getting completely removed from the entire restaurant / hotel business (as part of Dish removal) or getting removed only from the brand. “New” products mean the ones which are yet to be linked to any Menu live in guest websites and “Remove” meaning the products no longer linked to any live Menus
  3. For the new Menu, a report showcasing what are the costs and calorific information that have been entered for Dishes and to be displayed in guest websites
  4. For the new Menu, a report showcasing what are the Standard Operating Procedures for the Food Dishes which are part of this Menu
  5. For the new Menu, a report showcasing which products are “Frozen” and need to be defrosted before the same can be used by Chefs for cooking
  6. Suppose a product (which is currently linked to many Dishes via ingredients) needs to be replaced with a new product (as the restaurant or hotel no longer wants to do business with the particular Supplier) then in that a report showcasing the Dishes which shall be affected by the product replacement
  7. For the new Menu, a report showcasing the stocking policies and the regions where the products (used in the various Dishes of the Menu) are going to be stocked

The above reports pertain to product, ingredient and Dish data, which either can be in maintenance or approved. However, the Menu data shall always be in maintenance as it is currently undergoing development.

Reports business requirements for Finance business function

When the Menu is being prepared, the Finance business needs to know the costs of the products, ingredients and Dishes used in order for them to perform Menu Modelling / forecast. Further once the Menu completes the entire approval process and is approved, this business function provides selling prices to the Menu Items (please refer above in the Sell Side concepts) as per the price bands and price groups. Price bands are price tiers whereby a Menu Item say Value Chicken Burger can be sold at different prices in say London and Luton. Price Groups are nothing but logical grouping of a number of price bands. Say for e.g. Price Bands Core, Medium; Low belong to Price Group Atrium. This business function needs to pull out some reports pertaining to the below business needs:

  1. For the new Menu, a report showcasing the purchasing costs of the products that are used in the Dishes which are going to be part of this new Menu
  2. For the new Menu, a report displaying the ingredient cost contribution on the Dishes. The ingredient cost on the Dish shall vary as per the quantity of the ingredient used in the Dish unlike in product cost which shall always remain fixed at the product level
  3. For the new Menu, a report displaying the costs and margins of the Dishes that are being included in the Menu under development. The sum of the Ingredient cost contribution makes up the Dish cost

The above reports can be pulled for a Menu, which is in maintenance or has just been approved.

Reports business requirements for Nutrition business function

This business function needs to validate the calorific, allergen, nutritional and technical information for the products, ingredients and Dishes before the same gets displayed into guest websites for the Menu once it is live. In order for this business function to perform its daily tasks correctly and efficiently, it needs to pull out some reports pertaining to the below business needs:

  1. A report showcasing the calorific, allergen, nutritional and technical information for the all / new products once it has passed through all the buy side approval workflow processes and got approved
  2. For the new Menu, a report displaying the calorific, allergen, nutritional and technical information for the products and Dishes used in the Menu. Please note that this report is used for showing calorific, allergen, nutritional and technical information to the business head of Food & Beverages during pantry shows and this is important because in many countries people are adopting healthy means of eating which means that Dish high in calories and low in nutrition would usually meet with low guest demand

The above reports can be pulled for Products, which have been approved, and for Menu, which is in maintenance.

Reports business requirements for Digital & Marketing business functions

Once the Menu is approved, there is a business function viz. “Digital” which acts as an interface between the Food & Beverages and Marketing business functions. They have an in house Digital system whereby they have to enter all the approved Menu related information, which will be ultimately used by the Marketing function to display in Guest Websites or for printing purposes. In order to perform its daily tasks correctly and efficiently, it needs to pull out some reports pertaining to the below business needs:

  1. For the new approved Menu, a report showcasing which are the products/ingredients which are entering new to the entire restaurant or hotel business as part of Dish addition to the Menu, or entering new to the particular brand only for which the Menu is being created, or getting completely removed from the entire restaurant / hotel business as part of Dish removal or getting removed only from the brand for which the Menu is being created. New” products mean they are yet to be linked to any Menu which is live in guest websites and “Remove” meaning the products are no longer linked to any live Menus
  2. For the new approved Menu, a report showcasing the linked menu items, Dishes information along with the selling prices as per the price groups and price bands
  3. Sites are restaurants where the “Menu Items” are sold to the customers at tills. These sites are also linked to price groups and price bands denoting that a site/restaurant in a posh location (like London) can be charged higher amount from guests for a “Menu Item” in comparison to a site/restaurant in a cheaper location (like Luton). This business function requires a report showcasing the sites and the price groups and price bands associated with the same
  4. For the restaurant / hotel business there can be many Menus, which might be simultaneously under development for its different brands for different seasons like Spring / Summer / Autumn. This business function needs a report to know the Menus and the associated information (like menu items, Dishes, Ingredients and Products that are associated with that Menu) which have been approved in the last quarter.

The data in the above reports are needed for keying into their Digital system. In addition, these business functions shall only deal with approved Menu data.

Operational Reports v/s Departments – Snapshot

Business Function

Operational Report

Business Purpose

Food & Beverages

New Menu Spreadsheet

This report shall provide the business with the information as to what products are coming in new to the entire business or for a particular restaurant brand. This shall help the entire business and the restaurants in proper demand planning of the product inventory that goes in making up a dish

Cookbooks and Posters

Ready to use files to be used by restaurants and comprising product knowledge, training manual, cooking method etc. for individual dishes to be used in a Menu

Defrost List

Before any frozen product goes into cooking for a Dish it needs to be defrosted. This report shall provide the business with the products (chosen to be used for making a dish) which are frozen

Dish Standard Operating Procedures Report

These are required by the food safety and security team in order to comply with food safety regulations

Nutrition

Product Technical Report

This report shall provide the business with the allergen, nutrition and calorific information of the products (per 100g / 100ml) that goes into making the dish

Menu Technical Report

This report provides the dish (per portion) allergen, nutrition and calorific information which goes into making up a Menu. These in turn are displayed into guest websites or printed copies of the Menu

Finance

Product Cost Report

This report shows to the business the cost of the products that goes into making up a dish

Ingredient Cost Report

This report shows to the business the cost of the ingredients that goes into making up a dish

Dish Cost Report

This report shows to the business the dish cost, margin and margin%. This helps the Finance business function to properly forecast cost for making future Menus

Procurement

New Product Report

This report is required by the procurement team in order to know at which stage of the review process a new product purchased from a supplier is in as any new product newly purchased by the business has to go through a lot of review and approval process in order for it to be used in a dish

Trade Team Form

This report depicts the product level information of a new product for the business and which needs to be sent to the relevant trading partners

Digital

Menu Selling Price Report

This report shows to the business the selling prices of its various dishes along with the effective date, end date and the price tier to which the individual dishes belong. Price Tier specifically caters to dishes which can be sold at different costs (for the same menu) depending upon the site in which it is being sold

Site Price Tiers Report

This report shows to the business the different price tiers in which a site might belong. The dishes in a Menu are in turn linked to these price tiers to be sold into the particular site

Conclusion

In this whitepaper we got a high level understanding of what operational PIM business reporting requirements can arise in F&B industry and how the same can be fulfilled using an Operational Data Store platform. It would have been ideal if the PIM platform would have directly fulfilled all the reporting business needs however in the long run investment in a reporting data platform like ODS shall bring in huge business benefits in the form of automation and greater productivity ultimately leading to the entire business landscape getting benefited with enhanced Return on Investment (RoI).

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