NRA 2016 Restaurant Industry Forecast: Technology Trends

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Technology drives the world. It’s in the homes, cars and pockets of consumers. It's on their wrists. Because of this, our guests expect technology in restaurants, hotels, casinos, on cruise ships, and in other hospitality venues. More importantly, they expect this technology to enhance their experience.

According to the National Restaurant Association’s  2016 Restaurant Industry Forecast, one in 4 consumers consider whether or not smartphone apps, free Wi-Fi, tablets, and ordering kiosks are available to them when deciding on a restaurant. However, the NRA discovered that a significant number of consumers believe that dining out has become more complicated because of the prevalence of technology in restaurants. What these two facts reveal is that consumers expect tech when dining out but are wary of how it will impact their experience. It is imperative, then, that operators ensure any tech they implement enhances guest visits.

Consumer desire to use tech in restaurants has increased in just a couple of years. Roughly one-third of consumers have indicated that they are more likely to use tech options in a restaurant than they would have been two years ago. Last year, just 9% of consumers aged 65 and older said they were more likely to use tech options in restaurants. That number has now grown to 14%, showing that while they are behind Millennials in the adoption of dining tech, they are indeed starting to accept it. A staggering 50% of Americans have logged into free Wi-Fi at a restaurant.

The NRA’s 2016 forecast found that 80% of consumers say they would self-service kiosks and ordering stations at restaurants. Sixty-three percent of consumers indicated that they are willing to use tableside payment stations and devices, an increase of 15% from just one year ago. Also seeing an increase is the willingness of limited-service restaurant customers to use electronic ordering kiosks. While last year’s NRA forecast reported that only 40% of consumers said they would such tech, this year’s forecast shows that number has increased to 60 percent. All of these numbers of promising but it’s important to bear in mind that 20% of consumers have said they’re not willing to use any of the aforementioned tech options. That number sees an increase to 40% among consumers aged 65 and older.

Interestingly, the age gap is narrower when it comes to mobile payment. This technology option has proven thus far to be attractive to consumers of all ages. It appears that as more and more mobile payment platforms are introduced to the restaurant space, consumers find it to be standard. Another interesting revelation is the use of social media by consumers as it relates to restaurants. NRA research has found that despite popular belief, only about 25% of consumers take and post pictures of their food. It was also discovered that positive feedback from restaurant guests outweighs negative posts. Both women and consumers under the age of 45 are more likely to use social media in terms of posts about restaurants, and Facebook is used more commonly than Twitter and Instagram. Many operators may believe the number to be higher but only about one-third of consumers consider social media when deciding on a restaurant.

Things to consider:

  • 31% of operators plan to commit resources to service-based tech this year.
  • 19% of operators have plans to invest more in customer-facing hardware and devices, and the same percentage plans commit more resources to BoH tech.
  • Quickservice and fast-casual restaurants are seeing the most momentum for mobile payment, but the tech is gaining popularity across all segments.
  • Restaurant operators are looking into the use of drones, which makes sense given that more than 25% of consumers have indicated that they would use drone food delivery services.

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