Technology use in restaurants is accelerating, creating new touchpoints between restaurants and the consumers they serve, according to the National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Technology Landscape Report 2024. The report identifies the varying expectations consumers have regarding technology, depending on whether they are dining at a restaurant or ordering delivery to their homes, as well as generational differences in preferences.

“Restaurant operators have tremendous entrepreneurial spirit, and they are constantly innovating – sometimes through new dishes or flavors, and sometimes through new business practices,” says Michelle Korsmo, president and chief executive officer of the National Restaurant Association. “More than 3 in 4 operators say technology gives them a competitive edge, and this research will also help operators find the right technology fit for their restaurant and their customers. In addition to valuable research on restaurant operator outlook, our research on the technology landscape in restaurants provides insights on consumer expectations that operators need to confidently evaluate their tech investments.”

Among the findings in the report:

  • 55 percent of operators are planning investments to improve their service areas, while 60 percent are looking for technology that will enhance the customer experience.
  • 16 percent of operators plan to invest in Artificial Intelligence (AI) integration (including voice recognition) in 2024.
  • 82 percent of Gen Z adults are comfortable placing an order at a limited-service restaurant with a smart phone app.
  • 65 percent of all adult consumers would be comfortable paying their check at a full-service restaurant with a computer tablet at the table.

The use of technology in the delivery segment is already baked into consumers’ expectation. They expect to be able to access, order, customize and pay for delivery orders through their computers or smartphones and if they can’t, they’ll order from somewhere else.

“The data clearly show that restaurant operators and owners are rapidly embracing technology and integrating it into their daily operations,” says Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research and knowledge for the National Restaurant Association. “Understanding which technologies customers in each segment would like to have, really want, and consider essential, provides operators with substantial opportunities to enhance the customer experience, amplify marketing and operate more efficiently.”