While digital pioneers like some national pizza chains are recognized for well-integrated technology, overall relatively few consumers strongly agree that a restaurant they recently visited used technology to improve their experience, according to a recent white paper issued by market research firm Technomic.
Several smartphone-enabled conveniences have become very important to restaurant consumers, especially Millennials. "Technology-friendly service in restaurants has become important to consumers broadly, and to Millennials and Generation Z customers, it's essential," says Colleen Rothman, manager of consumer insights for Technomic. "Consumers will continue to look to pizza chains and fast-casual brands for the latest and greatest digital platforms, but they also will expect all restaurants to integrate many technologies that have become a fact of daily life everywhere. Mobile apps for loyalty points and rewards, free wi-fi, and mobile ordering and payment will grow more important in the years ahead."
Of the more than 100,000 consumers polled by Technomic's Consumer Brand Metrics program, nearly two in five called loyalty and rewards programs important or very important to their decision to visit a restaurant. The percentage was even greater for Millennial customers, 50 percent of whom called digital-loyalty offerings important for limited-service restaurants, and 53 percent for full-service restaurants.
Millennials also attached greater importance than the overall population to free wi-fi, online or mobile ordering and mobile payment, regardless of restaurant industry segment.
Consumer Brand Metrics also surveyed people about their most recent occasion at one of 134 restaurant brands and sought their ratings for three technology-related attributes: the integration of technology into the ordering process, the ability to pay for an order using technology and whether a restaurant's use of technology improved the guest experience. Composite scores of the three attributes found fast-casual restaurants boasted the best segment average, with 34 percent of consumers rating them highly, compared with 32 percent for quick service and 30 percent for full service.
The fast-casual and quick-service sectors also outperformed the full-service segment on their average ratings for integration of technology into the ordering process. Several fast-casual brands are leading the charge into the adoption of touchscreen ordering kiosks. In full service, interactive menus and gaming platforms on tablets helped drive strong consumer ratings.
However, each industry segment has opportunities for growth in one crucial metric. Only 13 percent of quick-service, fast-casual and full-service consumers strongly agreed, "This restaurant's use of technology improves my experience."