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National Restaurant Association - On the menu: More technology, please

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On the menu: More technology, please

Recognizing that customers expect increased technology at restaurants, operators are more rapidly adopting various forms of consumer-facing options, narrowing the gap between what diners want and what is offered, new National Restaurant Association research finds.

The NRA’s 2015 Restaurant Industry Forecast reports that consumers say technology is important to them when choosing a restaurant. Among those consumers:

  • 79 percent said they thought technology increased convenience
  • 70 percent said it sped up service and increased accuracy
  • 45 percent said it made dining out more fun
  • 35 percent said it made them choose one restaurant over another;
  • 34 percent said it made them dine out or order takeout more often.

Simply put, technology is starting to become an expectation rather than a novelty.

“Our research indicates that consumers, especially younger ones, have come to expect the availability of technology during a typical restaurant experience,” said Hudson Riehle, the NRA’s senior vice president of research. “This means technology is very much a part of and facilitates decisions on where to dine out. So, wherever technology can be integrated, that’s a win-win situation for the consumer and the operator.”

Some tech offerings are more common than others, including smartphone apps, online ordering and electronic menu boards. Also gaining traction, but not as common, are mobile or wireless payment options, iPad tablet menus and touch-screen ordering kiosks.

Among restaurateurs surveyed for the report,  63 percent of family-dining restaurants offer Wi-Fi for customers, as did 67 percent of casual-dining operators, 74 percent of fine-dining operators, 60 percent of quick-service operators, and 61 percent of fast-casual restaurants.

Mobile-friendly websites also are popular among restaurateurs. Of those surveyed:

  • 47 percent of family-dining restaurants have mobile-enabled websites for their establishments, as do
  • 60 percent of casual-dining operators
  • 54 percent of fine-dining operators
  • 63 percent of quick-service operators
  • 53 percent of fast-casual restaurants.

Restaurateurs said they’re exploring various technologies but the cost of implementing and using it is a concern. Concerns include challenges like integrating new technology with existing infrastructure, service and repair of hardware and staff training.

Riehle said that while many factors contribute to a restaurant’s success, operators should embrace technology to keep up with competitors, help maintain relevance and build customer loyalty.

“Technology in and of itself isn’t a ticket to success in the industry, but it can be the hook that creates loyalty,” he said.

For additional information and to buy the 2015 Restaurant Industry Forecast, visit Restaurant.org/Forecast.

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