Restaurant operators are bombarded with pitches for the latest technologies, but consumers still are looking at the basics when it comes to a restaurant experience. A new survey by Deloitte asked restaurant customers what tech options they desire the most, and how these features increase frequency, average check, loyalty and more. Among the most prevalent findings, says Andrew Feinberg, a principal for Deloitte, is that the fundamentals still drive business more than gadgets do. “Regardless of all these tech investments, the menu, price and location are still paramount,” he says.
So how can operators craft an effective tech landscape for their brand? It's all about engagement, says Feinberg—investing in what customers want and will use, in the ways they choose, rather than merely embracing the next shiny new thing.
The study, “The restaurant of the future: Creating the next-generation customer experience,” provides insights into how consumers are actually using restaurant technology.
Digital outreach overload
Some 40% of consumers want to hear from a restaurant once a month or more, the majority of whom are interested in discounts or special offers. At this point, just 34% are looking for that interaction to be a personalized message and only about one in 10 want the interaction to be about a forum to provide feedback.
That said, seven in 10 expect restaurants' apps themselves to be more personal; they respond to apps that “know them.”
Online ordering drives spending
Online ordering is very important to consumers and increasingly so, says Feinberg. Not only do 40% of customers prefer to order online, but they expect to spend more. A quarter of fast-food customers spend more when they order online; the same is true for 13% of fast-casual and casual-dining customers.
Flexible payment options matter
More than half of guests expect the same payment flexibility—such as splitting the check—with takeout and drive-thru orders. On-the-go consumers also want the option to pay digitally, even more so than dine-in guests: Some 48% of drive-thru diners and 46% of takeout guests want to pay via their phone, compared to 31% of dine-in guests. Of those paying via smartphone, 50% prefer to use the restaurant’s branded app.
Delivery will continue to grow
That’s especially true in city centers where there is human centrality, says Feinberg, and less so in more suburban and rural areas. The delivery realm also includes big pushes in catering, an area in which Feinberg expects to see tremendous growth. “The customer is time starved, and the choices are unbelievable,” he says.
Where a lot of the growth and change will continue to happen: third-party delivery apps. “[They] are almost taking president over restaurant apps,” says Feinberg. And that means consumers have less loyalty to specific brands than they historically have.
Crowded app space
It’s something operators have heard many times: Consumers don’t have a broad array of restaurant apps on their phone. In fact, Deloitte found that they had less than three, says Feinberg. “Breaking into that premier shelf space on a mobile device is very challenging,” he says.
To combat this and still drive app-based orders, some brands are partnering with third-party delivery services—but they aren’t diving in full force, says Feinberg. At this point, he says, with these services still unproven and growing at such a rapid pace—and restaurants wanting to control their own brand experience at every point, including delivery—operators are trying to mitigate the risk by “making test bets in the near term,” trying select services and partnering with different companies in different cities.