person using phone at restaurant

The use of more customer-facing technology can directly impact a restaurant’s productivity along with brand loyalty and customer experience.

According to a new study from The National Restaurant Association, overall technology use in restaurants is increasing. More than 33% of consumers say they are more likely to use technology-related options in restaurants now than two years ago. What’s more, a significant number use their smartphones to interact with restaurants on a regular basis, such as ordering delivery, redeeming rewards, and paying for meals.

“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,” Hudson Riehle, Senior Vice President of Research for the National Restaurant Association, said in a release. “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.”

But, the study shows that many consumers prefer to deal with restaurant staff, underscoring that it’s an industry of hospitality where human contact will always be relevant.

Overall, the study shows that 70% of consumers say they own or regularly use a smartphone or tablet computer. Usage and ownership is common among younger consumers at 90% of 18-34-year-olds and 89% of 35-44-year-olds.

Among those consumers, one-third (32%) said they would use a smartphone app to pay their check instead of using cash or debit/credit card if offered.

The NRA asked consumers who said they are not using technology options more often why they aren’t using them more. Half of consumers said it is simply because they prefer dealing with people. This is particularly notable among younger consumers, where 61% of 18-34-year-olds gave this as a reason, while only 42% of those 65+ agreed.

What’s more, 15% say they don’t use these options more often because they don’t know how; 12% say the restaurants they typically patronize don’t offer those options, and 5% say they don’t use tech options because they don’t trust them to work correctly.

The study also shows that 15% of all adults use their smartphones to look up nutrition information at least once per week: 14% among consumers in the 18-34 age group, and 12% among those 65 and older. Similarly, 11% of all adults use their smartphones to use rewards or special deals at least once per week: 11% among consumers in the 18-34 age group, and 12% among those 65 and older.

The National Restaurant Association commissioned ORC International to survey 1,007 American adults from Oct. 2-5, 2014, about their attitudes toward and use of restaurant-related technology options.

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