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National Restaurant Association - New research shows consumers want a side of technology with their meals

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New research shows consumers want a side of technology with their meals

As technology is becoming a part of the daily lives for many Americans – and a critical tool of convenience for more than a few – the desire to use options like touch-screen ordering, smartphone apps, and mobile payment when dining out is growing. New research from the National Restaurant Association released today at the Restaurant Innovation Summit shows that the majority of Americans have used such tech-based options, and even more are interested in doing so if provided by their favorite restaurants.  [click on image to enlarge]

“Technology can add convenience and efficiency to the customer experience, as well as provide productivity benefits to restaurant operators,” said Hudson Riehle, the NRA's senior vice president of Research and Knowledge.

The new research shows that 63 percent of adults have used restaurant-related technology options in the past month. More than two in five have used a smartphone to find restaurant locations and directions, or viewed menus and placed orders on a computer, while about one in five have ordered takeout/delivery or looked up nutrition information on a smartphone or tablet.

Further, seven out of 10 consumers age 18 to 34 have looked up locations and directions on a smartphone or tablet on the past month, half have used a computer to order food or make reservations, 35 percent have placed takeout/delivery orders on a smartphone or tablet, and more than one-quarter has used a smartphone to find nutrition information.

“Following wider societal technology trends, we’re seeing that younger consumers are much more likely to interact with restaurants on their smartphones than older adults. However, there is a substantial number of older consumers who say they would use smartphone apps for certain things, like looking up directions and finding nutrition information," Riehle said.

In addition, consumers say they are likely to use technology options if they were available in restaurants, again with younger consumers trending stronger than older adults. Half of all adults say they would use a smartphone or tablet app to place takeout/delivery orders, while three-quarters of 18-to-34-year-olds say the same. Similarly, half of all consumers say they would use restaurant rewards and special deals on a smartphone, while 70 percent of those 18 to 34 say they would; 46 percent of all adults say they would use a smartphone to make a restaurant reservation or place an order at a touch-screen kiosk, with six out of 10 18-to-34-year-olds reporting the same. And, 24 percent of all consumers say they would use a smartphone payment option, while 43 percent of those ages 18 to 34 say they would.

When asked in which area they would most like to see restaurants adding technology options, loyalty programs and ordering topped the list, followed by reservations, entertainment, and payment.

When it comes to features of a restaurant smartphone app, consumers ranked location/directions and viewing menus as the most useful, followed by takeout/delivery ordering, reservations, loyalty/rewards programs, gift cards, and connecting on social media.

Consumers were also asked about their likelihood to use an option to split the check among dining companions and pay with a smartphone if it were available. One-third says they would use such a feature, and once again, younger consumers came in at a substantially higher proportion at 53 percent.

Previous NRA research shows that the restaurant industry at large is starting to explore new technology, but that it is not commonplace just yet. Less than one in 10 tableservice restaurants currently offer options like tableside ordering and payment and tablet menus, and only a very small percentage of quickservice restaurants offer options like kiosk ordering, smartphone apps and mobile payment. However, 54 percent of tableservice and 48 percent of quickservice operators say they plan to invest more resources in customer-facing technology this year.

However, NRA research on future industry trends also emphasizes that it will remain important for restaurant operators to be high-touch in a high-tech environment, as consumers will still expect personalized service.

“There is a bit of a gap between what consumers want and what restaurants currently offer when it comes to technology, but more operators are working to close that gap. Understanding how consumers use – and wish to use – technology options can help operators plan strategic additions,” Riehle said.

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