The restaurant industry is undergoing a rapid transformation, driven by the need to adapt to the challenges posed by the pandemic. Restaurants, once slow to embrace technology, had to quickly adopt digital tools and online sales channels to survive. Now, technology plays a critical role in the restaurant experience and its importance continues to grow.
Restaurants are recognizing the benefits of integrating digital tools and modern solutions to streamline operations and meet the increasing demand for seamless experiences. A survey conducted in 2022 revealed that 75% of restaurant operators plan to adopt new technology in 2023 to address labor and cost challenges.
Convenience is a top priority for consumers, and restaurants are leveraging technology to meet this demand. PYMNTS reported that nearly 55% of restaurants have implemented curbside pickup, while 50% have adopted mobile order-ahead capabilities. Automation is also being embraced, with 76% of restaurants using automation in at least three areas of their operations.
The efforts to enhance digital engagement in the restaurant industry are paying off, with an 11% increase in consumers ordering through restaurant apps, websites, and aggregator tools. More than 146 million Americans now order digitally in some form.
Despite the progress, consumers are hungry for further innovation. To address issues like long wait times and declining service quality, 70% of consumers expressed interest in incorporating technological aids such as AI voice assistants, personalized menus, and smartphone apps into the drive-thru process. Some restaurants have already begun implementing AI voice assistants, like Panera Bread in its partnership with Amazon’s Alexa, and Del Taco Restaurants.
While consumers are embracing technology, it is important for restaurants to strike a balance and retain the human element. Even younger consumers, who are more comfortable with and eager for new tools, still value human interactions when dining out, especially in sit-down establishments. Only 17% and 18% of diners prefer using QR codes and kiosks instead of traditional menus and counters, respectively. Despite their interest in digital tools, nearly 60% of younger consumers still enjoy the traditional experience of interacting with a waiter.
The key takeaway for restaurants is to offer a diverse range of options that cater to both digital and traditional preferences. By providing a variety of experiences, restaurants can ensure they meet the evolving expectations of their customers. It is clear that there is no one-size-fits-all dining experience, and the successful restaurants of the future will be those that can seamlessly integrate technology while preserving the human touch.