Q&A with Blank Street's Head of Data, Ali Salihoglu

Justin Bleuel
December 31, 2021

In our mission to enable operations teams to build and scale, we're partnering with industry leaders to share their best practices, lessons, and advice. Today, we're speaking with Ali Salihoglu, Head of Data at Blank Street.

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Tell us about Blank Street

Blank Street is a Series-A micro-retail coffee shop that leverages technology and automation to serve high-quality coffee, extremely quickly, at the lowest price.

Micro-retail consists of three store-types:

  1. Battery-powered carts

  2. Small-footprint (600 sqft stores)

  3. Pick-up windows

What are you responsible for?

I'm responsible for the data side of the business. This spans across all things analytics, predictive modeling, creating and maintenance of our data stack, data pipelines, strategic review, and more. Data is a core part of our entire operations so I get to work with each team to ensure they have the right information, at the right times, to make the best decisions.

What does your Data Stack look like today?

With Food and Beverage businesses, there is no all-in-one software solution that can be used across the entire business. This means we have separate providers for each component, e.g. inventory management, shift scheduling, payroll, point-of-sale, IoT devices, and more. We pipe all this data using Fivetran to our Data Warehouse (Amazon Redshift) where we aggregate every data point across the entire company (including all of customer support, sales, timesheets, real-estate payments, etc.). Our inventory management and shift scheduling software didn’t have Fivetran connectors so we built some things, bespoke.

From there, we are able to use Redshift to then answer any quantitative and qualitative question people have. We use Avenue to automate monitoring for when something is important and needs action and where that information should be routed in the company.

What's your advice to other Data teams?

Invest the time early to set up the right data stack to support your teams' operations. This will most likely look like aggregating all data into a central Data Warehouse, so that you then have one source-of-record to ask and answer all operational questions. From there, I recommend tooling like Avenue to activate the data so that it's useful to your team. Often dashboards go overlooked, and what's most important to a company's operations is that people are acting at the right time.

Any recommendations for prospective Avenue customers?

  • Keep information direct and actionable: work closely with teams responsible for taking action, alert fatigue comes with unclear ownership and information

  • Keep metrics consistent: this ensures everyone is on the same page if there are a series of alerts firing

  • Build your runbook: by leveraging assignments and runbacks in Avenue, you can give your ops team full responsibility to manage alerts and their associated action items

What are you most excited about?

I'm most excited about enabling all teams across the company to make data-driven decisions, easily.

Co-Founder & CEO