Industry News

Looking at the future of restaurant technology

Every restaurateur knows keeping up with the latest technology is increasingly important. But it’s more vital than ever to stay ahead of the curve as more consumers demand specific technologies from the spots they frequent that make pain points like ordering and delivery easier.

There are some key areas that are increasingly important to consumers -- and will continue to be in a post-pandemic world, according to Datassential’s Restaurant of the Future keynote report. 

Capabilities like contactless payments, digital ordering and coordinated contactless delivery helped to keep both workers and consumers safe and allowed tech-savvy foodservice operators to stay afloat, and even thrive in some cases, in an unprecedented time. And with that, consumers have reached the point where these technologies feel increasingly necessary. 

How easily accepted and adopted a technology is, unsurprisingly, varies heavily by generation.

Younger consumers -- millennials in particular -- are by far the most accepting and enthusiastic about restaurant automation. Among older adults, more claim they either hate or dislike encountering these cutting-edge technologies than those that say they love it or like it.  

Automation currently fits best with those restaurants that are already geared toward quickservice and convenience. Consumers are generally supportive of automation in these atmospheres, but show apprehension about automation appearing in sit-down or formal dining environments.  

On this scale, consumers widely agree. Consumers are far more comfortable with digital restaurant orders than they were before the pandemic began. In fact, consumers say 43% of their restaurant orders in the last year were placed either online or via a smartphone app, and restaurants said 23% of their sales came from those avenues. 

And although app ordering has the highest interest among consumers, close behind are tabletop/tablet ordering, kiosk ordering and the use of digital-only menus. These other order methods are only likely to increase in availability in the post-COVID “new normal.” 

In addition, digital-order-only drive-thrus or pick-up lanes are not yet readily available, but consumer interest is high -- providing a ripe opportunity for those operators who have the funds to make the investment. Making the pick-up process for digital ordering even faster will likely further its restaurant implementation and increase consumer satisfaction. 

Of course, customer satisfaction is always a top priority, but labor challenges are the motivator for restaurants’ automation investment. Just two years ago, increasing sales was overwhelmingly the top reason that restaurants used automation. Though new technology expense is still a concern, current labor limitations have changed the math for many restaurants, likely leading to an acceleration of automation and technology, Datassential said.

And while there’s a clear incentive to embrace new technology, some restaurants are still not embracing some of the earliest ones that could notably increase consumer satisfaction. More restaurants focus on having social media pages for customers to follow, like or explore, while customers put more weight on a restaurant having a traditional website. 

Early adopters of technology gain key advantages over competitors and be best-positioned for the future, Datassential said. Most consumers agree with this sentiment: 58% believe that restaurants that stay up-to-date with the latest technology are more likely to be successful in the future. 

As consumers grow accustomed to more technology and then reach the point they no longer want to live without it - the restaurant of tomorrow may very well resemble something that’s unrecognizable today. But those operators who push the envelope with new technology will see that consumers are more willing than perhaps ever before to come along for the ride. 

For access to the full report, contact Mark Brandau at mark.brandau@datassential.com.

 

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Samantha Des Jardins is a writer for Datassential, a food industry market research and insights firm.

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