Tech Integration is Transforming the Restaurant Experience

Technology use in restaurants is accelerating, creating new touchpoints between restaurants and the consumers they serve, according to the National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Technology Landscape Report 2024.

The new report identifies consumers’ varying expectations regarding technology, depending on whether they are dining at a full-service restaurant or ordering delivery to their homes, as well as generational differences in preferences.

Michelle Korsmo, President & CEO of the National Restaurant Association, explained that operators have a tremendous entrepreneurial spirit and are constantly innovating.

“More than three in four operators say technology gives them a competitive edge, and this research will also help operators find the right technology fit for their restaurant and their customers. In addition to valuable research on restaurant operator outlook, our research on the technology landscape in restaurants provides insights on consumer expectations that operators need to evaluate their tech investments confidently,” said Korsmo.

Key Insights from the Restaurant Technology Landscape Report 2024

  • Expect to see more technology in the coming year – 55 percent of operators are planning investments to improve their service areas, while 60 percent are looking for technology to enhance the customer experience.
  • Sixteen percent of operators plan to invest in Artificial Intelligence (AI) integration (including voice recognition) in 2024.
  • Eighty-two percent of Gen Z adults are comfortable ordering at a limited-service restaurant with a smartphone app.
  • Sixty-five percent of all adult consumers would be comfortable paying their check at a full-service restaurant with a computer tablet at the table.

Restaurant operators are getting creative in expanding technology offerings, paying close attention to consumer preferences, but generational differences persist.

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When asked how likely they’d interact with a tablet at the table, most Gen Z adults, millennials, and Gen Xers say they’d use these options, but fewer than half of baby boomers said they would.

Compared with full-service and limited-service options, the use of technology in the delivery segment is already baked into consumers’ expectations. They expect to be able to access, order, customize, and pay for delivery orders through their computers or smartphones, and if they can’t, they’ll order from somewhere else.

“The data clearly show that restaurant operators and owners are rapidly embracing technology and integrating it into their daily operations,” said Hudson Riehle, Senior Vice President of Research and Knowledge for the NRA. “Understanding which technologies customers in each segment would like to have, really want, and consider essential provides operators with substantial opportunities to enhance the customer experience, amplify marketing, and operate more efficiently.”