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The Commit Report | Enhancing the Customer Experience in Restaurants with Touchless Technology

July 5, 2022

In our previous blog post, we shared research on restaurant industry patronage across the United States, including different types of customer preferences about their food and how they want to order it. Our research shows that overwhelmingly across all customer segmentations, dine-in patrons prefer to order with a server once they’ve been seated versus using a restaurant’s app, QR code or tablet at the table.

However, the popularity of touchless technology has grown immensely over the past few years. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it was emphasized as being a much safer option, and this has only fueled its adoption. Behind the scenes, restaurant owners also turned to technology in an effort to survive mass labor shortages.

Continue reading below to see what restaurants need to know about touchless technology today, and how they should view the risks and opportunities.

Driving Tech Adoption Post COVID-19

A 2020 study by Deloitte revealed how interested consumers were in technology during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. While part of the appeal was due to the convenience consumers had already been demanding, there was also an increased interest in safety that was responsible for reshaping dining habits.

A year later, research by both Mastercard and Hospitality Tech demonstrated that both consumers and restaurant operators were planning to continue using some of the touchless technology in restaurants that became popular. Here are some interesting statistics they uncovered:

  • 74 percent of consumers indicated they would continue using contactless payment systems even after the pandemic
  • 65 percent of restaurants kept their technology budgets the same for 2021
  • 25 percent of restaurant owners were rolling out new technology solutions, including mobile device ordering, alternatives to physical menus, and cashless tipping options

A side benefit of all this digital customer engagement is that restaurants can use and analyze the data they collect. However, knowing how and why diners engage with technology in restaurants is critical in optimizing marketing messaging, placement, personalization and user experience.

Not All Tech Is Created Equal

When self-checkouts started becoming popular in grocery stores about 20 years ago, they offered clear benefits for retailers because they decreased their overhead costs. However, many consumers thought this shift put more work on them without making the checkout process quicker or easier.

Consumers have similar preferences today when it comes to touchless technology in restaurants. A 2021 study mirrors our own findings with 37 percent of diners preferring more staff and personal service. Only 19 percent preferred more technology and less personal contact. Another Deloitte study from 2021 found that only 25 percent of diners prefer a digital or contactless payment process.

Research has also concluded that consumers can be encouraged to use touchless technology in restaurants, especially when it makes the experience easier and faster—or if there are additional perks by having a loyalty program.

Ask yourself: How can touchless technology enhance your customers’ experiences while dining out?

Making the Dining Experience Better

It’s clear that touchless technology has a place in today’s restaurants. It has benefits for both restaurant owners and diners because it’s more convenient.

However, it’s important for restaurant owners to carefully consider the diner’s experience when considering whether or not to add touchless technology. Research clearly shows that diners want personal interactions when dining in and don’t want to adopt something that takes away from that enjoyable experience.

Touchless technology doesn’t have to mean impersonal or lack of human interaction throughout the customer experience. Just like how people were quick to adopt extra sanitization measures early on in the pandemic, today’s diners believe touchless technology in restaurants means extra convenience and efficiency. They also believe it communicates that a brand invests in technology and modernization. Touchless shouldn’t replace human interaction—it should enhance it.

At Commit Agency, we know this is a pivotal moment for restaurants right now. Using social listening and other research methodologies, we know what our client’s customers are looking for and have used that intel to optimize the brand-customer experience.

To learn more about each patron’s behaviors and get insights into the opportunities they present, check out our entire executive summary.

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