Many millennials still yearn for high touch over high tech, NRA finds

Younger restaurant patrons’ eagerness to use tablets and other remote-ordering devices may be overstated, suggests new research from the National Restaurant Association.

A survey conducted for the association found that 53 percent of millennials are more likely to use technology options in restaurants than they were two years ago. Only half as large a share of the baby boomer generation, or 26%, reported using devices like tablets or order-placement kiosks more often.

About half the respondents who said they were not using the technology more often cited a preference to deal with humans rather than touch screens. That aversion to devices and self-ordering was far stronger among millennials than other age groups, the NRA noted. Nearly two-thirds, or 61 percent, of the millennials who didn’t step up their use of restaurant tech said they preferred to deal with staffers, compared with 42 percent of respondents over age 65 who said they would rather interact with a human.

“It’s important to note that a substantial number of consumers say they still prefer to deal with restaurant staff, underscoring that this is still an industry of hospitality where the human factor will always be paramount,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research for the NRA.

The NRA also noted that an age bias toward restaurant technology largely disappears among frequent users. Once consumers hit the threshold of using a smartphone at obtain restaurant information at least once a week, their behavior shows virtually no correlation with age, the group said.

The results of the 1,007-consumer survey were released today at the NRA’s Restaurant Innovation Summit in Atlanta.

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