A Taste for Tech: Restaurant Technology Appeals to All Generations

Millennials are using new restaurant technology at a higher rate, but the gap among frequent users is smaller than you’d think, according to new research from the National Restaurant Association.

That technology gap you’ve heard about between millennials and baby boomers? It’s practically nonexistent when it comes to dining out, according to new research from the National Restaurant Association.

Presenting the data at a keynote at NRA’s Restaurant Innovation Summit last week, Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research for the association, said the industry is preparing itself to cater to the needs of the technology-driven consumer.

“While overall usage of restaurant technology options is still more common among diners in the millennial generation compared with baby boomers, the age gap generally levels out when it comes to frequent users,” Riehle said. “As restaurants integrate more customer-facing technology, usage among consumers is growing. When done right, it can help a restaurant’s productivity and the customer experience.”

Overall, 70 percent of the 1,000 American adults surveyed said they own and regularly use a smartphone or tablet—90 percent of millennials and 60 percent of boomers. But there’s little difference in how the two groups are using their devices to interact with restaurants. For example, 12 percent of millennials and 8 percent of boomers said they use a restaurant smartphone app to order takeout or delivery at least once per week; 14 percent of millennials and 19 percent of boomers said they use a device to look up nutrition information on a regular basis; and 10 percent of millennials and boomers said they use their smartphones to pay for a meal at least once a week.

Among frequent smartphone users, 32 percent said they would use their mobile device to pay their check, rather than using cash or a credit card, if a restaurant offered that option.

But what about the 30 percent of consumers who have been slower to adopt new technology? NRA asked them why they aren’t using new tech options. Responses included that the technology was not offered at restaurants they go to (15 percent), that they lacked knowledge about the tech options (12 percent), and that they don’t trust the new technologies (5 percent). The most common response: a desire to interact with a human being (50 percent).

“It’s important to note that a substantial number of consumers say they still prefer to deal with restaurant staff,” Riehle said. This finding underscores that the restaurant industry “is still an industry of hospitality where the human factor will always be paramount.”

The results of the survey have convinced Anna Tauzin, senior marketing manager of innovation and entrepreneurial services at NRA, that now is the time for restaurants to invest in new technologies.

“Being accessible via a mobile site or a mobile application is crucial at this point,” she said in a statement. “Is an app the only answer? Not necessarily. But you need to offer some kind of mobile environment that accomplishes what a mobile app might do. … This is a big reason we’re spotlighting this. Restaurants that don’t have a mobile site or app could miss out on a good opportunity to create additional revenue.”


Rob Stott

By Rob Stott

Rob Stott is a contributing editor for Associations Now. MORE

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