January 19, 2024 • Featured Spotlight
An Interview with Marielle Kokos of Lineup.ai
Marielle Kokos is the Head of Sales and Partnerships at restaurant tech start-up Lineup.ai, an AI software that helps restaurants control their two biggest expenses-labor and food costs. As part of the DRA’s mission to share educational resources and solutions for restaurants to thrive in the digital world, Marielle spoke with the DRA about how Artificial Intelligence can be seamlessly integrated into a restaurant’s operations to address pressing issues facing the industry like labor shortages and food costs.
DRA: What does Lineup.ai do?
Restaurants rely on Lineup.ai to provide them with the insights they need to lower their two biggest expenses: labor and food costs. Their machine learning platform uses the restaurant’s historical sales data, local weather, events data, and more to produce automated sales forecasts that are updated daily. Restaurants never have to guess again how much labor they need each day to stay within budget without sacrificing service. They will also cut down on food waste using forecasts that tell them which items to expect to sell down to the hour so they can prep the right amount.
DRA: How can these capabilities help a restaurant’s operation?
Labor costs are usually around 30% or more of a restaurant’s operational costs. Restaurants are always trying to find a way to increase their profit margin, so Lineup’s goal of optimizing and managing food costs and labor costs can really make a difference. With better forecasts, you can improve scheduling without sacrificing service, and when you have an understanding of what you’re expected to sell down to the hour each day, you have an opportunity to figure out what recipes you should be preparing and managing for better menu planning.
DRA: Why do you think that’s necessary in the modern day restaurant industry?
As mentioned, labor and food costs are two of the biggest expenses for a restaurant. Because restaurant profit margins are usually quite thin, they can’t afford to overschedule staff or have a high amount of food waste. Food costs and inflation increase every day, competition is tougher than ever, and there is no shortage of other available jobs that employees could take if they can’t get enough shifts at your restaurant.
Lineup provides daily sales forecasts powered by machine learning four weeks in advance, saving time for GMs who have a thousand other things on their plate– we update these forecasts on a daily basis so they never have to think twice about how any of the external factors we look at will affect them.
DRA: Can you describe more specifically how the technology integrates within the restaurant’s platform?
Lineup integrates with seven different Point of Sale (POS) systems and Snowflake to pull the restaurant’s historical data. Our data science team has developed a proprietary machine learning model that takes that historical data and combines it with localized demand data such as local weather trends, TV schedules, foot traffic, national food holidays and more.
Users can easily track their restaurant’s performance against forecasts through a daily dashboard, displaying hourly forecasts and real-time sales from the POS system. This live feed ensures that users can promptly assess how actual sales align with forecasts, providing the necessary insights for real-time decision-making, whether it involves adjusting staffing levels or making on-the-fly operational decisions. The goal is to offer a straightforward, user-friendly solution that seamlessly adapts to changing circumstances without the need for constant manual intervention.
DRA: Can you describe what sets lineup.ai apart from other similar systems?
What sets Lineup apart is our extensive groundwork in machine learning. The machine learning model has been in development for approximately four years allowing us to meticulously identify the right data points through collaboration with industry restaurants, ensuring that the product we built made practical sense and genuinely simplified the lives of our users. These machine learning models have continuously evolved, incorporating feedback and adapting to new data. Lineup has been active in the market for about two years, providing its product to restaurants—ranging from single-location restaurants to those with up to 150 locations within a brand. The universal need for sales forecasting assistance and automation resonates across the industry. Whether it’s improving efficiency for a small local eatery or a large restaurant chain, Lineup strives to contribute to the success of businesses by simplifying their operations and enabling them to invest more time in customer relationships.
DRA: How does this filter all the way to improving the customer’s experience?
When a restaurant is staffed appropriately with prepared and supported team members, customers tend to have a better dining experience. Servers are also generally happier, because they’re not having to cover too many tables being short staffed. The team is able to work better and more cohesively when each position is filled. Additionally, being able to predict shifts and schedules that take into consideration staff time off requests and actual availability, ensures that employees feel heard and supported as well. Having the right sales forecast helps you better understand where to place that labor.
DRA: What does Lineup’s mission mean to you?
Lineup’s philosophy is to meet the restaurant where they are. We realize that it’s not easy to add additional technology to your tech stack, so we are trying to build as many integrations as we can with other willing suppliers so restaurants can get the best of both worlds.
We’re always available to have conversations around that with other suppliers, if anyone is interested in increasing the functionality of the sales forecast that they provide today.