What tech users want from restaurants

Restaurants may be out of sync with customers in their adoption of new technology, suggests a new study from the OpenTable online reservation service.

A consumer survey conducted by the service found that nearly half (46 percent) of the public has never used a smartphone to pay for a restaurant meal, despite the dash by the major chains to add that option to their apps.

A more common routine is going online to check out the menus of restaurants under consideration for a visit, OpenTable found. Eighty-six percent of restaurant guests scout out the bills of fare before dining out, the statistics show.

Conversely, the tech feature most desired by consumers is currently offered by just a few chains or independents. Eight-five percent of respondents said they wished they could learn the wait time for a table before heading to the restaurant, and 83 percent indicated their desire to put their name on the list remotely.

Restaurant chains like Starbucks and Taco Bell report good sales results from their adoption of proprietary phone apps, but there may be a good reason for independent restaurants to take their time in following suit. Fifty-five percent of restaurant customers told OpenTable that they were unlikely to use an app for a particular place. Only 6 percent said they were “very likely” to download such an app.

Although digital bills of fare are becoming more common through the adoption of tablets and other tabletop ordering devices, a smartphone remains an important tool for understanding what’s available. One in four restaurant customers said they “always” or “frequently” use their phones to learn more about their options and help them decide what to pick.

One in five restaurant customers typically use a smartphone, tablet or computer to interact with a restaurant brand’s loyalty program. The revelation comes as many chains are pursuing some sort of rewards program as the next enhancement of their apps.

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