Today's tech landscape

A survey of operators reveals where the industry is at—and where it's headed.
Illustration: Harry Campbell

There’s a common message often trumpeted when it comes to restaurant tech: The restaurant industry is behind. Insiders and observers claim the business is slow with its adoption, and is trailing other industries in its use of tech. 

At the same time, technology is changing and evolving at lightning speed. Operators are exploring new offerings, integrating tech throughout their businesses. Which begs the question: With the rapid uptick in tech usage, are restaurants still behind? 

To answer that question and learn more about where operators are investing—and where they’re willing to—Restaurant Businessfielded a survey about the current technology landscape. 

Rate of Adoption

The majority of operators no longer consider themselves lagging when it comes to tech. While fewer than 10% think their operation is on the leading edge, most think their brand is on track. Operators consider their adoption of technology to be:

Tech Budgets

One possible explanation for the uptick in tech adoption: bigger budgets. Virtually no operation is cutting its technology budget. On the contrary, more than half of restaurants are putting more dollars toward innovation now than they were a year ago. Compared to last year, operators are devoting _____ resources to technology.

Top Roadblocks

That said, cost still remains the biggest challenge for operators when it comes to tech adoption. “Cost of implementation for most brands is an issue,” said one respondent. “Margins are tight for restaurants, so there has to be a strong ROI benefit.” As such, more than 3 in 5 operators list the cost of implementation as the top challenge to adding more technology options. Integration and a lack of infrastructure to support new efforts round out the top three roadblocks. As one respondent said, there are “too many point solutions with insufficient integration.” The biggest challenges for restaurants looking to add technology: 

Positive Effects

Despite these challenges, operators share that there are a range of benefits to technology in restaurants. While many back-of-house innovations improve efficiency, management and more, we asked operators the benefits of using consumer-facing tech. Their varied responses show the many uses tech can have. What’s the top benefit of consumer-facing tech? 

What's Next

Knowing how technology is improving front- and back-of-house experiences, Restaurant Business asked operators what they think the most important areas of development will be. Two spaces stood out: POS integration and customer ordering. Looking at the next two years, which will be the most important area of development?

Dream Upgrades

What would be on restaurant operators’ wish lists? If the following technologies were available and accessible, which would you consider adding to your concept?

What They're Watching For

Further, we asked operators what future technological developments they’re most excited about from a business perspective. While kiosks and other forms of at-the-table order and pay methods did come up, along with general labor-saving technology, here are some other innovations operators are looking forward to: 

  • Better customer-data compilation tools for a true customer relationship management (CRM) for restaurants.
  • All-in-one CRM and marketing platform with POS and reservation data integration.
  • One-stop-shop POS that includes inventory/ordering, scheduling, payroll, online ordering, third-party delivery, etc.
  • Automated kitchen prep/smart equipment to make every product more flawless.
  • More effective tools for finance, tax payment, payroll and resources management.
  • More competitive rates for reservation systems.
  • Affordable AI solutions.
  • Improved equipment tech to better allow tracking, adjustments and preventative and predictive maintenance.


Results are based on a survey conducted by Restaurant Business that was completed by 170 respondents representing a mix of single-unit independents, multiunit independents, franchisees and corporate-owned chain restaurants. 


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