New study reveals diner desires when it comes to tech in restaurants

A real-time restaurant reservation service has released the results of a recent survey showing that consumers want more technology options to enhance their dining experience.

OpenTable, a California-based real-time online reservation company that connects diners and restaurants, commissioned the study titled: “Technology and Dining Out 2015.” Among the stacks of statistics, the research revealed that Canadian consumers already make significant use of various technologies prior to dining out, and are looking for additional resources to further enhance and inform their eating experiences.

“What we attempted to do is find out what’s lacking for restaurants and what’s lacking for diners, [and] what they’re expecting from their overall experience,” said Bryan Huehn, OpenTable’s country manager for Canada. “There’s a very healthy appetite from diners to have more technology within their experience.” 

According to the numbers, technology already plays a role in helping diners decide where to spend their dollars. The large majority of Canadian diners (82 per cent) browse menus online before eating out, which could present a problem for restaurants that lack websites with that information readily available.

“That’s a big number. If that information is not online, that might be a lost diner for that particular restaurant,” says Huehn.

Andreas Antoniou, managing partner as Beacon Restaurant Concepts, agreed that dining venues need to focus on having a menu readily available for guests to view online.

“I think anytime someone hears about a good restaurant, or books a reservation at a restaurant or their friends book a reservation, the first thing people do is check the menu or look at a gallery — and maybe look at some reviews.”

The research examined the technological preferences and habits of more than 7,300 diners across Canada in six major metropolitan areas, including Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg.

Mannerisms of the surveyed diners actually varied based greatly by city. For example, the research suggests that Vancouverites are some of the most budget-conscious diners in the country, with 42 per cent “frequently” or “always” using technology to find deals or discounts before dining out. That’s a full 12 per cent higher than the national average, based on the responses.

Respondents were also quizzed on their comfort with the emerging practice of restaurants “Googling” their visitors prior to their reservation. Thirty-six per cent of Canadians overall thought the practice was creepy. However, Montreal residents were far more comfortable with the idea, with only 33 per cent saying Googling guests was intrusive.

Emerging Trends

While the report showed that only a small portion of Canadians had used a mobile payment system to settle a bill at a restaurant, 47 per cent say they’d never tried it but liked the idea of paying with a mobile device. Antoniou predicts this kind of system could be a “game-changer” from both a restaurant and diner perspective — paying at your table is more efficient for waitstaff catering to large groups, and customers can have their bills split more accurately.

Another trend Huehn noticed is that diners are searching more for visuals of prospective dining venues. According to the survey, about one in four people have looked at photos online of the dining space and dishes listed on the menu.

“Ultimately people just want to find and discover great restaurants,” Huehn says. “Before they make that decision, they want to find out more about where they’re dining.”

In addition to using online menus and venue photos to decide where to eat, diners also had a wish list of technologies they hope to see in the near future. Almost every Canadian surveyed (90 per cent) wanted access to a technology that helped them to get into exclusive restaurants. And another 81 per cent wanted a tool that would show them live wait times for tables at their favourite establishments.

While a bevvy of technologies are already available to aid restaurants, Antoniou says the real measure is how it resonates with customers.

“From our perspective, our business is all about taking care of customers,” he says. “So question is: ‘Does the technology allow us to take better care and deliver better for our customers?’ If the answer to that is yes, that’s a technology that we’ll embrace.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Lindsey Peacock
Lindsey Peacock
Lindsey Peacock is a freelance writer, editor and American expat based in Toronto. This proud Atlanta native has written for a variety of news and business publications across North America, including Business in Vancouver, BCBusiness magazine, Fort McMurray Today and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Blogging, sweet tea and black-and-white movies are a few of her favourite things.

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