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Full-service patrons lukewarm about restaurant tech

Full-service patrons lukewarm about restaurant tech

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Think your restaurant is out of step with tech-savvy patrons because you don’t offer a customized mobile app? Don’t sweat it. A new survey from reservation provider OpenTable finds that even if you had one, a majority of full-service customers wouldn’t bother to download it.

“Just six percent of diners say they are ‘very likely’ to download the app of an individual restaurant or restaurant group, while 56 percent are ‘very unlikely’ or ‘unlikely’ to do it,” OpenTable reports. “Top reasons to skip app downloads include lack of phone storage space and preference for using apps that aggregate information from multiple restaurants.”

That’s not the only disconnect OpenTable found between highly touted new restaurant-specific technology and actual usage by full-service diners. Another aspect of its study looked at mobile payment solutions. Even though they bring speed and convenience to end-of-meal transactions, only a small percentage of full-service customers have actually tried them.

The results show that just seven percent of patrons have used their mobile phone to settle their tab and say they like doing so. Another four percent have done so and are neutral about the experience and two percent have paid with their phones but didn’t like handling it that way. In contrast, a whopping 87 percent of full-service diners have yet to use their mobile phones to pay their bill. “While there’s been a lot of buzz about mobile payment options, especially in the run-up to the EMV liability shift, clearly the industry is still at a very early stage of adoption,” OpenTable concludes.

These figures come from a study entitled “Technology and Dining Out 2015.” Earlier this year, OpenTable surveyed more than 6,000 U.S consumers to gauge their preferences about technology usage before, during and after their meal. Respondents came from 10 large metropolitan areas spread across the U.S. and were bona fide restaurant customers who had made at least one reservation through OpenTable in the prior year.

Survey respondents were anything but technophobes. They are heavy users of technology prior to entering the restaurant. The percentage of respondents who “always” or “frequently” perform the following pre-dining tasks include:

• Make a reservation—88 percent

• Find a restaurant—87 percent

• Check out a menu—86 percent

• Read reviews from other diners—60 percent

• Get directions to the restaurant—59 percent

• Look at pictures of the restaurant, including its food—59 percent

• Read professional restaurant reviews—48 percent

• Research deals and offers—46 percent

• Make special arrangements—36 percent

The overall results suggest that technology will play a bigger role in the dining experience going forward, but has so far gained more traction in casual-oriented restaurants than in full service, particularly in fine dining. But even as operators strive to put their best digital food forward, they should be aware that hands-on hospitality performed by humans is ultimately what your customers want.

“The verbatim feedback from our 6,000-plus respondents underscores that making your guests feel special throughout their meal is as critical as it’s ever been,” OpenTable concludes. “Technology can help on the margin, of course, by helping staff be more responsive and allowing diners to provide more input into their experience. But as you consider tech investments, don’t skimp on training your staff to deliver the type of hospitality that will keep your guests coming back.”


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