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Shaping the way of data management in the food and hospitality sector

SBR spoke with Tiara Winata Head of Strategy, Data Analytics & Tech for TiffinLabs.

As Chief of Staff and Head of Data Analytics & Tech at TiffinLabs, Tiara Winata works with the food tech company to create delivery-optimised digital restaurant brands crafted by culinary and proprietary food trend analytics engine. 

She speaks to SBR about her role in a male-dominated industry, her passion for driving greater impact for society, and how she is helping to shape the way the food and hospitality sector uses data.

According to the Boston Consulting Group, as few as 15% of data scientists today are women. What inspired you to enter this male-dominated industry?

I have always been interested in mathematics since young and my parents encouraged me to pursue my passion by introducing me to Engineering when I was picking a university course. In my final year, a seminar in Business Analytics was offered for the very first time. Seeing how data and numbers was used to make sense of the world and drive greater impact unlocked its magic and sparked a lifelong interest and passion for it.

What really inspires me about data is seeing how it can be used to create a greater impact on the world around us. Data helps us collect more insights into products, processes and people to create something that is better for everyone.

While it can be intimidating entering a male-dominated industry, I find that my guiding values such as having empathy and being compassionate, traits more traditionally associated with femininity, have also made me stand out in my work. It allowed me to understand situations and business problems not just with numbers, but also the people and livelihood it impacts. It also pushes me to translate the complexity and richness of data in a language that everyone is able to understand easily so that they can see how data can empower them.

It’s interesting that both food and tech is such a male-dominated industry. Food especially is something that has been around for centuries so the way it’s been done is set in stone and changing people’s perception on it is challenging. Chefs are very creative people who always use their gut (literally) and sometimes getting them to use data goes against their very DNA, so you need to speak to them with their language and go through the process together with them to show them how data can empower them instead of hinder them. It’s been amazing seeing the moment where the magic happens and you unlock a new way of thinking of industry veterans

With TiffinLabs being Singapore’s biggest food tech company, how has your role in data analytics impacted the growth of the business? 

I had the unique opportunity to join TiffinLabs founding team to start and grow our data analytics capabilities. As Singapore’s biggest food tech company, being able to build a digital kitchen technology stack to collect and leverage multiple data sources and translate them into actionable business insights have given TiffinLabs an edge in the competitive market today. We are able to make decisions quicker, smarter and more efficiently with a data-driven approach. 

What I love about TiffinLabs is that data analytics is really the engine that fuels our organization. Data powers decision making very beginning from strategic business model thinking to execution such as selection of delivery kitchen, identifying cuisine gaps or go-to-market approach. 

As a start-up, we have to be creative with the limited resources we have to scale fast and win quickly. A strong foundation in analytics and data-led thinking has allowed us to grow exponentially in the past year to create 15 digital restaurant brands and launch over 20 kitchens in the past 12 months, while pivoting quickly with rapid changes in the food industry to stay ahead. 

How do you foresee analytics reshaping the food industry in the region and globally? 

In my career, I’ve used analytics for financial planning, costing, operations and innovation. The idea of applying it to food was what really intrigued me to join TiffinLabs. I believe we have barely scratched the surface of how data analytics can be used to guide the menu development process. I foresee that analytics would continue to play a bigger and bigger role in shaping food and culinary innovation. 

Analytics is already reshaping the way we explore, discover, and identify new cuisine gaps at a granular, localized level by helping us filter through the noise of social media, viral tik-tok trends and food bloggers to drive menu development and dish creation. TiffinLabs proprietary food trends engine is not only able to identify what consumers in each delivery catchment area want to eat, but how they order and consume it – do they order ahead of time or on the train home from work, are they order for a family with young children, or just for a single person. 

Technology and business intelligence platforms to collect and make sense of data also continues to be more accessible to traditional F&B owners. They will be able to get a real-time feedback loop on what sells, what does not sell to re-engineer and optimize their menus and dishes more iteratively. Insights on food costs, preparation steps and time help them run more efficient operations. Predictive demand forecasting would also allow them ensure adequate staffing and inventory while reducing overhead and wastages. 

In what ways can TiffinLabs with its data-driven model benefit existing establishments, especially during this Covid-19 period?

There has been a cosmic change in the way we are consuming food globally, especially so with the recent pandemics and multiple lock-downs, which has resulted in a behavioral shift across all age groups from on-premise dining to off-premise dining. Food delivery in SEA grew 183% from 2019 to 2020 with Singapore generating US$2.4Bn in GMV1.

TiffinLabs was able to help existing F&B establishments get a greater share of the food delivery pie by partnering with them to fulfil our digital restaurant brands out of their existing underutilized kitchen. This provides them with an instant revenue booster with no additional overheads. Our restaurant partners do what they do best – taking care of the food with our delivery-optimized supply chain, while TiffinLabs manage delivery efficiently with the help of our analytics capabilities.

Data analytics has been essential to help our fulfilment partners succeed; we are able to identify digital brands that would fit the cuisine gap in the restaurant’s neighborhood, develop a streamlined menu to fit the needs of the consumer, and quickly adapt pricing, promotional and marketing strategy to real-time demand. 

We saw great impact especially during the lock-down period, where our fulfilment partners are able to keep staff employed by operating a few of our digital brands out of their establishment to help dilute overhead cost. Seeing the great traction and impact it has for existing F&B establishments, we believe that 40% of restaurants globally would be adopting the digital restaurant strategy in the future.

1https://thelowdown.momentum.asia/food-delivery-in-south-east-asia-almost-tripled-in-2020-accelerated-by-covid-19/

Given that there have been calls for greater diversity in the tech industry, what advice would you give to aspiring women who would like to enter this field?

My advice to aspiring women is to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. It is not easy being the lone woman in a room, and even more so when you are just starting out, but don’t be afraid to find your voice and own it. Be bold and fearless – ask lots of questions, volunteer to take on challenges, and don’t be afraid to fail especially when you are young.  It is often at the most uncomfortable and difficult moments in your journey that you would have the greatest personal growth and learning opportunities.

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