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Check of consumer perceptions yields some touch-screen surprises

Consumers weren’t part of the audience at FSTec, but their attitudes toward restaurant technology were given voice by a study survey released at the conference by Technomic.

The report, based on a canvass of consumers a few weeks earlier, revealed some surprising perceptions of guest-ordering and cash-out devices like tablets and kiosks.

For instance, although most respondents said they intend to tip the same on a tablet or kiosk as they always have, discrepancies emerged when the data were collated by age group.

“The expectation on our part is, this technology is going to lower the amount of gratuities that some people get,” said Darren Tristano, executive vice president of the Chicago-based research and consulting company. For instance, “Baby Boomers are going to lower their tips because they perceive the service level is lower.”

Overall, 12 percent of survey respondents said they tip less via a tabletop system.

Co-presenter Jackie Rodriguez, Technomic’s senior manager and consumer behavior expert, noted that servers likely will still make more in tips because the number of tables and hence parties they serve will likely increase. The number of gratuities they pocket will increase accordingly, she explained.

At other times during FSTec, tablet users noted that tabletop technology also tends to raise the typical check, which would also increase tips if guests give the same percentage of the bill as they always have.

Technomic also noted that 77 percent of the guests using in-store self-ordering systems opt for one of the preset tip amounts. In places like taxis, those presets tend to be 15, 20 or 30 percent.

Another finding that Rodriguez cited as surprising was the indication that only 23 percent of customers who use the in-store devices (smart phones were not covered by the survey) regard them as a boon to customization. Similarly, a mere one in three users said the systems improved order accuracy, a benefit routinely cited by operators who have installed touch-screen systems.

More than two of every three users did find service to be faster with self-ordering capabilities.

Respondents expressed a low interest in using the devices to purchase entertainment, Tristano noted. But someone in the audience noted the revenue some restaurants are already collecting for jukebox functions, whereby guests can request for a fee that a song be played on the sound system. They can pay a premium to move the request to a higher position in the Play queue.

Overall, one-third of the respondents said they had already encountered a tablet or kiosk in a restaurant, and 75 percent of that group had used the devices. About one in three said the devices enhance the dining-out experience, but only 46 percent said they would use the touch-screens in their favorite restaurant, an indication Rodriguez read as a desire to socialize while the respondents are in a regular spot.

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