What technologies do restaurateurs want? Not necessarily what they plan to buy.

A Restaurant Business survey found that wish lists are shaped in no small part by costs, including ongoing usage fees. But whatever the financial burden, throughput and efficiency trump other considerations.
What technologies restaurateurs want
illustration by RB Staff

Two out of 3 restaurateurs plan to step up their investments in technology near term, but what they buy may be different from what they want.

A Restaurant Business survey of operators shows a marked difference between what’s actually on the capex plans of operators and how they’d digitize operations if the pesky matter of price didn’t arise.

Yet even if a rich benefactor plunked down a sack of crypto coins, negating all concerns about cost, a typical operator’s tech wish list would abound not in gee-whiz items such as robots, but in proven nuts-and-bolts throughput boosters, like kitchen-display systems (KDS).

Operators were asked to share what technology they would lease or buy if cost were not a consideration. Topping that hypothetical shopping list were hand-held ordering devices for servers (cited by 55%) and pay-at-the-table systems (50%). Both are forms of restaurant technology that have been around for a decade.

Rounding out the Top 5 were KDS or other back-of-house devices (52%), integration software that consolidates orders into one system (45%), and software for managing customer relations (42%).

The most Jetsons-like items were robots (22%), artificial-intelligence-driven phone systems (33%) and geofencing capabilities (39%).

Interest in those advanced gizmos fell considerably when survey participants were asked to factor in price for a real-world consideration of their tech priorities.

Efficiency boosters for servers once again topped the shopping list (pay-at-table devices, 35%; hand-held ordering devices, 32%). But a new POS system soared into the Number 3 spot (31%).

Tellingly, when respondents were asked to disregard price in considering their next digital investments, only 2% said they have no interest in acquiring technology at this time. The number jumped to 11% when the participants were asked to factor costs into their investment plans. Suddenly, 1 out of 10 had no plans to open their wallets.

Cost was by far the Number 1 gripe respondents had with technology; 47% cited that factor as what they liked least about digitizing operations. Yet a high sticker price was less of an issue than the fees vendors and resellers charge for usage and maintenance (19% vs. 28%).

The challenges of integrating a new capability into an existing operation was also high on the ranking of dislikes (at 21%).

Still, the group showed considerable appreciation for the benefits of tech. A full 65% of the operator-respondents said they intend to spend more near term on technology, vs. 33% who plan on maintaining their current level of investment. Only 2% said they intend to spend less.

In addition, when participants were asked to choose the statement that best illustrates their attitude toward restaurant technology, 49% picked, “It’s a major advantage because it boosts throughput and improves service.” The next closest answer--+It’s a major advantage because it reduces my labor needs—was picked by only 22%.

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