Why one-third of restaurant operators lag in tech use

(National Restaurant Association)

Technology is still not the norm in many restaurants, according to the 2016 new Restaurant Technology Survey by the National Restaurant Association. Restaurant operators agree technology can help increase sales and enhance customer service. However, barriers of implementation hamper progress and lead a third of restaurant operators to say their operations are lagging in tech use. Only about one in 10 believe their establishment is leading edge.

“The restaurant industry is very labor intensive. Average sales per employee are about a quarter of what they are at grocery stores, for example,” Hudson Riehle, the NRA’s senior vice president of research, said at NRA Show 2016, where the research was presented. “Technology can help boost productivity and efficiency in restaurant operations, but it’s important to choose the right processes and systems to make sure it doesn’t make the customer experience more complicated.”

Adoption of technology among restaurants is higher in some areas, such as using a point-of-sale system, having a website and offering Wi-Fi to guests, the research found. Other areas are less common, including tabletop and kiosk ordering and payment stations, mobile payment and smartphone apps. There are fairly significant differences in adoption among segments and ownership categories, however.

“Franchisees and chain-operated restaurants have a higher rate of technology adoption, likely because of the resource network they can tap into through their brand. Independent restaurants have to basically start from scratch on things like smartphone apps and POS systems,” said Annika Stensson, the NRA’s director of research communications. “Similarly, limited-service restaurants are more tapped into technology, likely because of their emphasis on speed and off-premises business. Online ordering, smartphone apps and mobile payment are much more common in quick-service eateries than table service restaurants.”

Restaurant operators say the following are barriers to adding customer-facing technology: cost of implementation (63 percent), lack of infrastructure (50 percent), service and repair (49 percent), transaction/usage costs (49 percent), customer acceptance (48 percent) and staff training (44 percent), reports Restaurant Business Online.  The survey also found that among restaurant operators who aren’t currently using these technologies, only a few plan to adopt them within the next year.

“Cost is still perceived as the biggest barrier to implementing more customer-facing technologies, along with lack of existing infrastructure and customer acceptance. Finding cost-efficient solutions and convincing arguments as to their importance are paramount for restaurant operators,” Stensson said. The Restaurant Technology Survey 2016 surveyed more than 500 restaurant operators in the spring of 2016 about use of technology in their restaurants. The full report of the research is due out this summer.