By: Tim Henschel NCR
Each year the National Restaurant Association (NRA) prepares a comprehensive overview of, and outlook for, the restaurant industry. The NRA’s research is considered the most authoritative source for restaurant industry sales projection and trends. It is based on analysis of the latest economic data and extensive surveys of restaurant operators and consumers. This 51-page report covers a number of industry topics, but of particular interest is the Technology Trends section. This section reports on industry trends and how technology is enabling operators to better extend their service offerings.
Here are a few key points:
- The number of consumers who say technology options like smartphone apps or self-service kiosks are an important factor in choosing restaurants is on the rise, up to about 25 percent from roughly 20 percent a year ago. The increase spans generations, with older and younger customers alike expanding their use.
- Technology engages, but won’t replace humans. Consumers still want humans part of the restaurant experience yet look to technology to increase service speed and convenience.
- Mobile payments is starting to gain steam as technology innovations and a growing number of service providers make it more accessible. 32% of all smartphone users are willing to pay their tabs instead of using cash or debit/credit cards. Of those, 53% prefer to use an app that can be used by several restaurants.
Technology + Perception = Brand Loyalty
Restaurants are heavily invested in developing and protecting their brands and it is an important differentiator in today’s highly competitive market. The restaurant brand includes the perceptions that the guests have when they enter or even when they think about entering a restaurant. A restaurant’s technology – and how it is used – is very much a part of what helps develop the guest perception. As consumers become more heavily dependent on devices, such as smartphones for their daily lives, they more commonly expect the companies and establishments that they support to leverage similar capabilities. Said another way, technology can both explicitly and implicitly help restaurants connect with their guests.
When adding technology to your restaurant, consider the consumer: their experience, their convenience, their feedback, and their desire to return over and over again. As consumers look for technology during their dining experience, restaurant operators are incorporating more tech options to engage customers in a more compelling way (that can also create higher transaction values) and help employees build a stronger connection to those guests. In many ways, your employees may begin to attach themselves not only to the restaurant itself, but also to their guests who become more and more loyal to the business.
Just as the 2015 Restaurant Industry Forecast points out, here at NCR we see how technology opens the door for restaurant operators to seamlessly connect guests in a wide variety of ways that improve the guest experience, while at the same time creating new opportunity to improve the efficiency, cost performance, and revenues of each location – and even grow brand loyalty exponentially.