Restaurateurs and the service providers supporting them have reached a point where the mix of technologies they employ is becoming more critical to driving customer patronage. To gain a better understanding of what diners want from technology before, during and after the dining experience, online restaurant reservations provider OpenTable surveyed more than 6,000 diners across the United States.
"At OpenTable we sit right at the intersection of food and tech, which makes us infinitely curious about what people want from technology when they dine out," said Leela Srinivasan, Vice President of Restaurant & Product Marketing at OpenTable, who authored an e-book from research findings titled Technology and Dining Out 2015.
The survey revealed that prior to dining out, 86 percent of diners regularly check menus online. "How often do you update your online menu, where do you update it and how well does it reflect what your guests might expect when they arrive?" Srinivasan said in a blog post. "Either commit to keeping your menu fresh, or post a sample version that's timeless."
Diners were also interested in viewing online images of restaurants before making reservations. She advises restaurants to hire a professional photographer to capture images of main entrees, as well as interior and exterior features to give potential customers a clear impression of what they can expect.
Also worth noting, 85 percent of respondents would like to know table wait times in advance, 83 percent would like to be able to add their names to waitlists prior to arrival and 64 percent would also like to indicate their seating preferences beforehand. In terms of social etiquette, restaurants that google to gain information about guests before they arrive were viewed as "creepy" by about 33 percent of respondents. OpenTable's findings confirmed the relevance of online customer reviews in the restaurant industry. "People are 25 percent more likely to consult reviews from other diners (as 60 percent typically do) than professional critics (48 percent)," Srinivasan said.
OpenTable found that nearly twice as many fine dining patrons set mobile devices aside while consuming their meals than do patrons of full-service, casual restaurants. Still, 25 percent of fine dining patrons stated they use mobile phones to research menu items on site when ordering. Restaurants that scored well in the meal presentation category were rewarded by the 21 percent who said they take mobile snapshots to remember the experience.
Emphasizing the loyalty connection, OpenTable found that 18 percent of diners routinely interact with restaurant loyalty programs using technology. But when it came to downloading mobile apps, only 6 percent were very likely to do so with an individual restaurant, thus opening the door for mobile apps with broader leverage than an individual restaurant is capable of offering.
"Dining out, like virtually every area of life, has been transformed by technology, but in an industry in which hospitality is paramount, it's important to strike the right balance for your restaurant concept," Srinivasan noted. To learn more about the Technology and Dining Out 2015 study and e-book, visit https://go.opentable.com/Technology-and-Dining-Out-ebook.html?mid=2015ebooktechOFB73015&ls=Blog.
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