Is Technology Ruining Hospitality?

According to 28% of Americans, technology is not always welcomed in foodservice, Mintel data shows. Although technology is beginning to play a role in nearly every aspect of life, it won’t be replacing human hospitality anytime soon given that just 17% U.S. consumers express interest in fully-automated restaurant concepts.

It could be fear of the unknown influencing these perceptions, as many Americans have never used certain types of technology when dining out, and are not interested in trying them.

For example, two in five consumers have not used and are not interested in trying a restaurant mobile app or kiosk to pay, while nearly half of diners have not used and express no interest in trying mobile wallet payment options.

“The majority of Americans are not interested in fully-automated restaurant concepts mainly because they prefer human interaction,” said Jill Failla, Foodservice Analyst at Mintel. “However, on-premise restaurant technology offers operators multifaceted solutions to growing labor challenges and consumer demand for speedy service.”

On the other hand, many consumers see the value of technology in foodservice when using loyalty programs. Thirty-six percent have used a loyalty program through a restaurant app and would use it again, while 23% of consumers who have not participated in a loyalty program through a restaurant app are interested in trying it.

Consumers are mostly drawn to loyalty programs for the rewards, including ongoing discounts, earning dollars towards future purchases and access to special deals.

Restaurant delivery marketplace Grubhub recently launched its own loyalty rewards program “Perks,” reported Yahoo! (Sept. 4). It offers integration of restaurant loyalty programs so diners can earn points digitally, as well as on the restaurant’s app or physically in-store.

Speed and convenience are key motivators for on-premise technology. About three in five consumers who use kiosks would use them again in order to bypass the line or for a faster ordering process. Forty-three percent do so because of the ability to customize their order and 38% do so because it offers better accuracy than ordering with a person.

Meanwhile, 40% who are not interested in using kiosks would not use them because they prefer human interaction. Additionally, 26% of these consumers avoid kiosks because they prefer paying with cash, and 15% cite sanitation concerns.

“Aside from kiosk tech, we see huge growth opportunities for operators leveraging pre-ordering options and tableside payments for sit-down meals, given how attractive these options are to younger consumers,” noted Failla.

AI technology is also growing rapidly across the U.S. with fast-food chains seeing the most potential driven by younger consumers in particular. Thirty-two percent of Gen Z consumers want digital ordering screens to suggest food add-ons or pairings, while 30% of 18-24-year-olds want more personalized orders based on order history.