While millennials are more likely than any other age group to use restaurant-related technology options, they are not the only demographic group to show interest in doing so. A significant proportion of consumers in the baby boomer generation are also using computers and smartphones when interacting with restaurants, according to new National Restaurant Association research.
“It’s well known that younger consumers are more likely to accept and even request technology options being part of their dining experience, but we’re finding that older consumers are also willing to incorporate technology for a variety of restaurant-related activities,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the NRA’s Research & Knowledge Group.
“While baby boomers are currently more likely to use a computer to place orders and view menus, they seem willing to transition to smartphones in the future. As more restaurants adopt these technology features, operators would be wise to not only focus marketing efforts on younger guests,” Riehle said.
In fact, more than half (56 percent) of consumers age 45-64 have recently used technology options in restaurants. Specifically, four out of 10 have ordered food or looked up menus on a computer in the past month; about one-third has looked up restaurant locations on a smartphone; and more than one in 10 has ordered takeout/delivery, looked up nutrition information, or made a reservation via smartphone or tablet apps.
The NRA’s research also shows that baby boomers would use restaurant technology options if offered by their favorite restaurants. About six out of 10 say they would order online using a computer or look up directions to a restaurant on a smartphone; and about four out of 10 say they would place orders, use rewards or special deals, make reservations or look up nutrition information using smartphone or tablet apps. Similarly, 40 percent say they would use an in-store touch-screen terminal to place orders, if available.
When asked in which area they would most like to see more technology options in restaurants, baby boomers favor loyalty programs and ordering as their top two.
So what does this mean for restaurant operators? Here are four takeaways:
Integrate your loyalty and rewards programs into apps and other technology options. In addition to being the number-one feature cited by baby boomers as a desirable tech option, two-thirds of consumers overall say they’re more likely to patronize a restaurant that offers a loyalty program.
When adding on-site kiosk or touch-screen ordering options, consider the font and button sizes of what appears on the screen to accommodate for easy viewing. Also consider highlighting healthful menu options and customization opportunities throughout the ordering process, as baby boomers are particularly interested in those options when dining out.
Consider adding information on parking options to website and smartphone app sections listing locations and directions. Do you offer valet services? Is there a designated lot, or do you have guidance regarding street parking? Eight in 10 consumers say parking factors into their restaurant selection process.
If you offer nutrition information for menu items, consider adding it to smartphone apps and as a mobile-optimized page on your website. Overall, more than seven out of 10 consumers say they are trying to eat more healthfully when dining out now than they did two years ago.