Tacos and tech - how ‘damn good’ analytics from Domo is fuelling growth at Torchy’s Tacos

Stuart Lauchlan Profile picture for user slauchlan March 30, 2022
Torchy's Tacos promises customers it will be 'damn good'. Domo is helping meet that commitment, says Bruce Harris, Director of Financial Applications.

fast food

Torchy’s Tacos today has over 100 locations in the US, but it all began Austin,Texas with a food truck and a red Vespa that founder Mike Rypka drove around in to make deliveries. Sixteen years later the firm is still expanding and that makes particular demands of the business, explains Bruce Harris, Director of Financial Applications:

We need to keep building those restaurants. But as everybody's seen with the inflation, with building construction cost going up so much these days, we really want to optimize that process [and]  we can make sure we choose the right store at the right location to optimize that customer experience.

He expands:

Construction costs are going up significantly. Construction materials are difficult to get hold of. In the last 12 months construction materials [have gone up] over 20%, labor costs up over ten percent. Time-to-completion is increasing. So everything is moving up, getting more expensive. It's taking longer to do. Given that, we  really need to optimize this design philosophy so we can build these stores correctly. We don't have much time for re-do. If you don't design it correctly, redesigning the store is very expensive and time-consuming. It takes a store offline. So you want to minimize that as much as possible and maximise that end user customer experience.

All our stores do have a unique design. It's not a cookie cutter approach. Every store, every market we go into, every location and every store design is completely different, so every store is designed from the ground up. Not taking that cookie cutter approach obviously makes it a lot more difficult because every design is basically a bespoke design, so we can't really re-use architectural plans.

That’s a menu of requirements that Harris uses Domo to address. Harris is a big Domo fan, having implemented its offerings four times across his career. It is, he jokes, his own ‘American Express card’ - he never leaves home without it. As part of a very small team at Torchy’s, he argues that Domo brings a particular set of functionality to the table:

I've always worked with a really small team. One of the reasons I really like Domo is it's it's a technology that allows the democratization of analytics, that allows really, really small teams to really optimize their data and analytics without requiring a team of five, ten, twenty people. 

Domo meets what Harris calls his “application philosophy”:

That philosophy is that these modern technologies are cloud-based, so I don't have the maintenance of maintaining the application. They're connected. Domo has hundreds of connectors and those connectors are growing every day because it's connected world. We have data from multiple different systems, [so] we need to be able to serve up that data from multiple different systems efficiently and effectively. And even when we don't have that direct connection with these systems, Domo has a great email connector. If you can even just schedule a report and send it as a CSV or send as an Excel file, Domo can consume that data feed it into the datasets. Really, it's almost impossible not to get data to Domo, which is really fantastic. And really my favorite is it's configurable. You can write some code. You can write some Python, you can write some SQL if you want to, but you don't have to.

Data sources

One of the most important of capabilities is the ability to pull in and manage data from multiple sources. Harris explains:

We have our point of sale data that takes all the customer transactions, records - literally line-by-line - every single item a customer bought, puts it on a ticket, so we have what it costs, what the discounts are. We have that lowest level transactional data, millions of rows of data there. We have our weather data. We're feeding our weather data in from different cities that we're in. We see the highs, we see the lows, we see the temperature average, see if it rained. You can see the different weather patterns [and] how that's gonna affect traffic.

We have our table tracker data. When you order in most of the stores you will get a tracker. When you sit at your table, these tables have sensors. When you place that tracker down, the table can pick up the sensor and that's how they know where to deliver your food. It being 'fast casual', the food is not instantly ready. All the food is handmade, and it's not made until you order it. Once you put in the order, the food's made. Then we have our customer loyalty data. We just launched our Taco Junkies program, tracking you to increase customer loyalty, reward the most loyal customers and then see what that loyalty behavior is because those loyalty customers those are our best customers. So we want to optimize the experience for our best customers.

What Domo’s analytics capabilities enable Torchy’s to do is to get a complete picture of how stores are performing and how to optimize that performance. Harris cites a number of use case exemplars, some seemingly mundane on the face of it, but in practice crucial for that sought-after optimization, such as usage of patio space at many of the restaurants:

Patios do add quite a significant cost. They're very attractive...Everybody likes to sit outside when the weather's good, but it does add a cost to the stores. So the ask was to examine the data, identify cost saving opportunities and optimize that decision-making process, given that all those stores have that unique design. So, [we’re] basically trying to build all this into our design so we can optimize that layout.

Analytics also underpin the new loyalty program and will influence the shape that this takes as it is rolled out further over the coming months. Harris says:

What you hope to see is most loyalty customers signing up where your store locations are concentrated. But obviously we don't limit where people can sign up. We can see that there are fans of Torchy’s Tacos in California, the Northeast and the Northwest, where we don't have locations...Based on this behavior we can see it's not only restricted to where our stores are. Loyalty sign-ups are actually happening all over the country, which is really, really good to see. We can track that.

So now we have the loyalty information and we have the point of sale data, we can track all that so we can see the hot and the cold spots for loyalty, who's getting the most loyalty visits, who's not getting quite as many loyalty visits…We can see the people who haven't visited as much. We can see their behavior. Maybe there are things we could do to drive some more visits from some of the loyalty members who aren't visiting as much, versus ones we can see who visit quite often. We could put different loyalty rewards for the people who are coming in 40, 50,60 times. This is where it all comes together.

Overall it’s a continuing journey to support Torchy’s continued expansions, he concludes:

We want to optimize the processes as much as possible and become a data-driven company. Domo is allowing us to do that from a loyalty, from a point of sale, from transactions, even from an architectural design standpoint. We're taking it in areas we've never been able to take data before [or] the analytics before. It's allowed Torchy's to mitigate risk and deliver that damn good experience to our customer.

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