New research from the National Restaurant Association, and presented this week at the Restaurant Innovation Summit in Denver, shows that customers want to incorporate smartphone technology into their dining experiences.

The majority of Americans have used technologies such as touchscreen ordering, smartphone apps and mobile payments while dining out. The research said "even more are interested in doing so if provided by their favorite restaurants."

"Technology can add convenience and efficiency to the customer experience, as well as provide productivity benefits to restaurant operators," said Hudson Riehle, the NRA's senior vice president of Research and Knowledge.

Research highlights include:

  • 63 percent of adults have used restaurant-related technology options in the past month.
  • More than two in five have used a smartphone to find restaurant locations and directions, or viewed menus and placed orders on a computer.
  • One in five have ordered takeout/delivery or looked up nutrition information on a smartphone or tablet.
  • Seven out of 10 consumers age 18 to 34 have looked up locations and directions on a smartphone or tablet on the past month.
  • Half of consumers 18-34 have used a computer to order food or make reservations.
  • Thirty-five percent of consumers 18-34 have placed takeout/delivery orders on a smartphone or tablet.
  • More than one-quarter of consumers 18-34 have used a smartphone to find nutrition information.
  • Half of all adults say they would use a smartphone or tablet app to place takeout/delivery orders, while three-quarters of 18-to-34-year-olds say the same.
  • Half of all consumers say they would use restaurant rewards and special deals on a smartphone, while 70 percent of those 18 to 34 say they would.
  • Forty-six percent of all adults say they would use a smartphone to make a restaurant reservation or place an order at a touchscreen kiosk, with six out of 10 18-to-34-year-olds reporting the same.
  • And, 24 percent of all consumers say they would use a smartphone payment option, while 43 percent of those ages 18 to 34 say they would.

When asked in which area they would most like to see restaurants adding technology options, loyalty programs and ordering topped the list, followed by reservations, entertainment and payments.

Consumers also ranked the most useful features of a restaurant smartphone app:

  1. Location/direction
  2. Viewing menus
  3. Takeout/delivery ordering
  4. Reservations
  5. Loyalty/rewards programs
  6. Gift cards
  7. Social media connections

"There is a bit of a gap between what consumers want and what restaurants currently offer when it comes to technology, but more operators are working to close that gap," Riehle said. "Following wider societal technology trends, we're seeing that younger consumers are much more likely to interact with restaurants on their smartphones than older adults. However, there is a substantial number of older consumers who say they would use smartphone apps for certain things, like looking up directions and finding nutrition information."

Read more about technology trends.

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User Comments – Give us your opinion!
  • Mark Moreno
    15177707
    Technology is a great enabler and it is inevitable that a lot of technology will hit the restaurant table. People love their smartphones and can't wait to find new things to do with them. Ordering and viewing from restaurant menu will be a huge component of a restaurant's tech strategy. Choosing the right solution will be critical. Restaurants need to be cautious about adding too many applications that will be difficult to maintain and pay for if they are not careful. Transactions will be a big factor and look for PayPal to be a big player in the online ordering world.
  • Mark Moreno
    15177130
    Technology is a great enabler and it is inevitable that a lot of technology will hit the restaurant table. People love their smartphones and can't wait to find new things to do with them. Ordering and viewing from restaurant menu will be a huge component of a restaurant's tech strategy. Choosing the right solution will be critical. Restaurants need to be cautious about adding too many applications that will be difficult to maintain and pay for if they are not careful. Transactions will be a big factor and look for PayPal to be a big player in the online ordering world.
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