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Mobile Goes Mainstream In The Restaurant Industry

Written by Ken Gaebler
Published: 11/4/2013

New research shows that consumers now consider mobile technology to be an essential part of dining and restaurant experiences.

The mobile technology trend happened quickly in retail. As more and more consumers acquired advanced mobile devices, the demand for enhanced mobile access increased exponentially, forcing retailers to respond with a wide range of mobile-optimized shopping tools.

Mobile Trends in the Restaurant Industry

In the restaurant industry, the push for mobile access has led many restaurateurs to quickly learn how to advertise on mobile devices and to participate in strategies that deliver mobile, location-based search visibility. In some cases, restaurant owners have taken the extra step of providing mobile-optimized websites or menus.

But in a Fast Casual report, recent research by the National Restaurant Association shows that consumers are demanding more when it comes to the mobile tools and features that restaurants provide to their customers. In fact, many diners now see mobile as an important part of the dining experience.

Some of the key findings from the NRA report include:

  • In the past month, more than two out of five consumers have used smartphone technology to find restaurant locations, view menus or place orders.
  • Approximately 70 percent of consumers in the critical 18-34 year-old age bracket have used mobile technology to find a restaurant in the past month.
  • Half of all adults report that they would use a mobile device to place takeout or delivery orders; this figure skyrockets to 75 percent of diners who are 18-34 years old.
  • Nearly half of adults are willing to use a smartphone to make a reservation or place an order at a touchscreen kiosk.
  • A quarter of adult restaurant customers are agreeable to smartphone payment options at dining establishments.

"There is a bit of a gap between what consumers want and what restaurants currently offer when it comes to technology, but more operators are working to close that gap," said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of Research and Knowledge at the NRA.

The top three areas in which diners would like restaurants to add technology options include loyalty programs, ordering and reservations. But when it comes to mobile features that are most useful, diners ranks locations, menus and takeout/delivery ordering at the top of the list.

"Following wider societal technology trends, we're seeing that younger consumers are much more likely to interact with restaurants on their smartphones than older adults," Riehle added. "However, there is a substantial number of older consumers who say they would use smartphone apps for certain things, like looking up directions and finding nutrition information."

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