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Tech gets a bigger seat at the takeout table

As restaurants increase investments in mobile ordering and payment technology, those with heavy off-site business are particularly seeing dividends from those expanded tech offerings.

Casual-dining chain Wingstop now receives 13 percent of its orders through digital means, company executives said earlier this month. The chain’s reliance on takeout—which comprises 75 percent of its total orders—made investing in its digital infrastructure key for driving business growth and building efficiency.

Given that at least half of the company’s customers are millennials, digital offerings are “what (Wingstop) customers expect,” CEO Charlie Morrison told investors. “(Online ordering is) definitely something we believe has long-term, strategic benefits for the brand.”

The company credited its digital presence for much of its 9 percent comp-sales growth during the second quarter of 2015. Building brand awareness via social media and enhancing customers’ ability to place orders online both played central roles, the chain said.

Since adding a new online-ordering platform and mobile app in the third quarter of 2014, Wingstop’s sales from mobile orders have nearly doubled, Morrison said.

When it comes to limited-service restaurants, in particular, customers seem to be craving more technology. While surveying more than 6,000 consumers earlier this year, restaurant-reservation service OpenTable found that 74 percent of respondents believe technology could play a “much bigger” or “somewhat bigger” role in enhancing their experience at limited-service and counter-service-only concepts. Sixty-five percent said the same of casual-dining restaurants.

The added value they perceived for fine-dining concepts fell short, as just 48 percent of respondents said technology could enhance their experience when visiting restaurants in that on-premise-heavy segment.

"Dining out, like virtually every area of life, has been transformed by technology,” said Leela Srinivasan, OpenTable's vice president of restaurant and product marketing, “but in an industry in which hospitality is paramount it's important to strike the right balance for your restaurant concept."

In the current restaurant climate, it seems most restaurant operators are seeing a return on tech investments. Sixty-seven percent of restaurateurs believe that technology has increased their restaurant revenue, according to a recent study released by electronics company NCR.

Domino’s second-quarter revenues rose 8.5 percent year over year, the chain announced last month, due in large part to its tech-savvy strategy.

The pizza chain—which is outpacing the industry with its slew of ordering and payment options that allow customers to place orders via Twitter, text message, emoji, smartwatch and smartphone app, and Samsung Smart TV—says that nearly half of its customer orders are now placed digitally. In addition, its digital checks are usually larger than orders placed via phone, which the chain attributes to customers being able to see the menu in its entirety.

Patrick Flynn, CEO of Domino’s, told investors that its “digital initiatives continue to help attract more customers around the world.” 

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