The lyrics to the Cheers‘ theme song really did have it right. Sometimes you do want to go “where everybody knows your name”–sit down in your favorite spot and ask for your “usual.” It feels good to be treated like a valued customer.

Sam’s bar, however, seemed to have a small and familiar clientele, making it easy to learn individual customer preferences. It was, after all, a TV show. In the real world, however, it’s much more challenging to achieve familiarity with your patrons. But, thanks to Big Data, you can uncover the preferences of your own Norms and Cliffs. And you can make them feel like “you’re always glad they came.”

Everything is not better with bacon

If you are puzzled by the current “everything’s better with bacon” trend, you are not alone. Restaurants galore, however, have bought into this craze and have started adding the traditional breakfast meat to everything from cocktails–ack–to desserts. After all, this is what the customer wants, right? Wrong.

If they had analyzed the data they would not have wasted their time, money, or energy on a fad that, apparently, raises customer eyebrows, but not their levels of hungry anticipation. According to “How Big Data is Revolutionizing the Food Industry,” a Big Data mining project conducted by and sifted through close to one million ratings to learn that sandwiches that include bacon see the biggest improvement in ratings, but it does not improve ratings on dessert recipes.

If eateries want to boost their dessert revenues and give the customers what they want, bacon-riddled chocolate is clearly not the way.

We’re Listening

Frasier Crane’s character may have been born on Cheers, but he is best remembered for the sitcom that bore his own name and his catch phrase, “I’m listening.” As a psychiatrist, Dr. Crane was paid to listen–but lending your ear to your customers can pay off in the hospitality industry too. And Big Data can provide you with the insight needed to really understand your clients’ motivators, needs, and preferences.

Enter TapSavvy, a digital “comment card” that invites your guests to provide real-time feedback on your food, your service, and your atmosphere before they leave your premises. After dining, customers are provided with a tablet at their table and asked to fill out a quick survey in order to express their pleasure or displeasure with their experience.

As “Restaurants Utilize Big Data to Stay Competitive,” states, “by letting customers give feedback while they’re still in the restaurant, they’re less likely to take out their aggression online.” Furthermore, it enables you to rectify any problems on the spot, and the data collected will enable you to quickly and accurately pinpoint any areas that require improvement and reward employees who are doing a job well done.

Sherry or Schlitz

If a Seattle Restaurant sent Fraser Crane an e-mail inviting him to a complimentary Schlitz, he would surely ask in his Ivy League-affected voice, “What on earth were they thinking?” After all, a marketing campaign’s success hinges on marketing the right product to the right customer. What is the good doctor’s preference? Sherry of course. And a smart marketer would know this.

How Data Integration Tools can Turbocharge your Marketing” recommends that marketing professionals use data integration tools to develop a customer-centric view and target marketing messages more accurately based on said view.

Founding Farmers farm-to-table restaurant in the nation’s capital does exactly that. Using Swipely, a service that replaces the eatery’s credit card system and works with their POS system to collect data based on each guest’s bill, Founding Farmers has been able to harvest useful data on their clientele. It has the ability to recognize when someone is a repeat patron, it keeps track of the food and drinks they order, how much they tip, and how long they stay.

According to “Big Data Arrives,” Founding Farmers can then build guest profiles, recording their favorite foods and beverages–sherry or Schlitz– in order to “communicate with them in a highly personalized way.”

Yes, thanks to Big Data, your hotel, restaurant, bar, or casino can create the “home away from home” feel found in the famed Bostonian bar–where everybody knows your name.

When you think of your favorite “haunts,” what is it about them that makes them special?

This post was contributed by Kimberley Laws, a freelance writer, avid blogger and sitcom addict who harbors a secret crush on Niles Crane. Make that “formerly secret.”