Digital Dining: Restaurant Technology Increasingly Drives Customer Satisfaction

by Scott Langdoc
September 18, 2018

Restaurant operators, whether they are global brands, franchisees, or independents, are investing heavily in a wide variety of digital technologies. That’s great – but their customers really, REALLY wish they would speed these initiatives up. In fact, the race to satisfy these expanding digital expectations will directly impact restaurants’ ability to grow, or even maintain, customer loyalty and market share going forward.

Digital Dining: Diners using digital technology at a restaurant

That’s the conclusion of a recent study conducted by Incisiv and sponsored by Windstream Enterprise and BRP Consulting. The study’s survey of 1,225 restaurant patrons and 60 restaurant IT decision makers revealed a core issue: diner’s expectations for a quality digital experience – from selecting restaurants via research on their phones, to mobile order-ahead, to using guest Wi-Fi after they arrive – is outpacing the ability of restaurants to deploy digital solutions to meet these needs.

Customer expectations across age demographics

Key high-level findings of the study, titled Restaurant Digital Crossroads: The Race to Meet Guest Expectations include:

  • For customers of all ages, digital technology across the entire dining journey influences 40 percent of all restaurant visits. Digital is now a core element of that expected dining experience.
  • Millennials lead the charge in this trend, using digital to enhance their dining experience in more than half of all restaurant visits.
  • Over the next 24 months, all restaurant guests will start weighing digital factors incrementally higher than traditional factors, creating a new level of table stakes that will establish a higher base level of dining expectations each customer will have – every single time they eat out.

The gap between execution and expectations

The study’s unique methodology, which compares diner expectations to restaurants’ ability to deliver, reveals a wide and growing gap. Over the next 24 months, that gap will reach 29% in mobile/web order-ahead; 20% in contactless/mobile payment ability; and even 15% in simple Wi-Fi availability. Smaller gaps exist in every phase of the dining journey, and restaurants have a lot at stake in closing them. The good news is, many restaurant operators are making concerted investments in the right technologies.

Encouraging signs for restaurant operators

Restaurant operators are planning on average a 2x to 4x increase in digital technology deployment in the next 24 months

The overall good news is that restaurant operators are largely attuned to what’s happening in this digital evolution – and are planning, on average, a 2-4x increase in digital technology deployments over the next 24 months. This level of investment will put unprecedented (and unexpected) demands on a restaurant’s entire IT platform, especially their network and communications infrastructure.

It’s a fascinating and opportunistic time for key industry stakeholders. Every restaurant operator interested in seeing how their brand and technology strategy compares to guest expectations and competitors can download the complete Windstream Enterprise-BRP Consulting digital restaurant study, which includes details on both the survey methodology and survey findings.