As consumer technology adoption grows, restaurants are trying to figure if and how they should integrate it into their operations. From payment products that aim to boost check averages, to services that increase user engagement, it can be difficult for companies to know which platforms to use.
One major challenge that both tech companies and restaurants face is that customers have been slow to embrace restaurant technologies. But new research from the National Restaurant Association (NRA), released at the Restaurant Innovation Summit, finds that the majority of consumers have utilized tech-based dining, and an even higher percentage is interested in such options, if their favorite eateries provide them.
The research shows that 63 percent of adults have used restaurant technology in the past month; while more than 40 percent have used a smartphone to locate a restaurant, check out a menu or look up directions. And roughly 20 percent have used a smartphone or tablet to order take-out or look up nutrition information. A whopping 70 percent of 18 to 34-year-olds have looked up locations or directions on a smartphone in the past month; while 50 percent have used a computer to order take-out; and 35 percent have place food orders via smartphone or tablet.
Younger consumers are more interested in restaurant technologies than adults, the research finds. Half of all consumers surveyed say they would utilize rewards and deals programs on a smartphone, while 70 percent of the 18 to 34 demographic say they would. Nearly half, 46 percent, of adults vs. 60 percent of 18 to 34-year-olds, reported that they would make reservations via smartphone and place orders via a touch-screen kiosk.
Top Tech Picks
Loyalty programs and ordering technology options were the most popular among consumers. Reservations, entertainment and payment options followed closely, though. As far as ranking features for restaurant smartphone apps, consumers’ top picks were location/directions and viewing menus, followed by takeout ordering, reservations, loyalty programs, gift cards and social media. And with promising news for new mobile payment smartphone app, Cover – which auto-splits the bill among users – 33 percent of overall consumers and 53 percent of younger consumers said they would use a check-splitting smartphone option if it were available.
Future of Restaurant Tech
With customer adoption of emerging restaurant technologies growing, 54 percent of tableservice and 48 percent of quickservice restaurants say they plan to invest in customer-facing technology this year, according to a previous NRA report. And while increased consumer interest may excite many restaurant technology companies, NRA’s research on future trends found that even though new technologies will be beneficial to consumers and restaurants, the most successful operators will marry those technologies with good-old-fashioned human interaction.