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One-third interested in paying for restaurant meals via mobile: report

More than one-third of consumers are more likely to access technology-related functions in restaurants than they were two years ago, according to new research from the National Restaurant Association.

With the rise of functionalities such as mobile ordering, mobile payments and redeeming rewards on smartphones, restaurants are able to market more efficiently to consumers, especially millennials that use mobile devices most frequently. Enticing young customers on mobile is paramount, as the study from the association’s Restaurant Innovation Summit revealed that 90 percent of 18-to-34-year-olds own and use a mobile device.

“We’re seeing that acceptance of the newer mobile options, like payment and loyalty programs, is growing at a pretty rapid pace,” said Annika Stensson, senior manager of research communications, National Restaurant Association, Washington, D.C. “A relatively large percentage – a third of consumers over 18 – said they would pay for their meals via smartphone app if restaurants offered that option.

“That is pretty significant, as people can be hesitant to embrace new approaches when it comes to accessing money.”

More technological options
The rising usage of technology in restaurants can be attributed to increased options, especially with large brands incorporating Apple Pay and other mobile wallets. The study found that 32 percent of individuals claimed they would use a mobile app to pay the restaurant bill instead of using credit cards or cash if the option existed.

However, some consumers still prefer to interact directly with restaurant employees, proving that the restaurant industry must carefully intertwine technology with hospitality, a sector where human communication is imperative.

The study displayed that customers prefer to use their smartphones for looking up information and locations for restaurants, browsing menus, reading reviews, taking advantage of special offers and ordering food on restaurant-branded apps. 25 percent of individuals said that they use their mobile devices to pay for meals several times a year.

Restaurants should aim to capitalize on rising mobile usage by offering a mobile app containing rewards, basic information and integration with a mobile payment system. It is also paramount that marketers advertise to all demographics to increase awareness of the brand and its technological capabilities.

Targeting right demographics
With 89 percent of 35-to-44-year-olds using smartphones, restaurants should also ensure to target to older demographics as well as the millennial generation. One way of doing this is to promote education of mobile apps and payment options to older audiences.

“It was a bit surprising to see that the age gap in usage shrunk significantly among frequent users of mobile service options,” Ms. Stensson said. “Usage is generally much higher among younger consumers, but when it comes to individuals who use options like ordering, paying and using rewards on their phones at least once a week, the difference between them and their parents’ generations is a lot narrower.”

Additionally, 15 percent of consumers surveyed said they do not use mobile options because they do not know how to, with 12 percent claiming that their restaurants of choice do not offer mobile options. Five percent said they do not trust the technological options to work accurately.

“Previous research we’ve done shows that more than a third of all consumers say tech options make them choose one restaurant over another, so offering mobile services can really pay off in this competitive environment,” Ms. Stensson said.

“However, the human element is still the primary component of hospitality and service, so technology should be implemented to enhance that service rather than relying solely on tech to deliver the restaurant experience.”

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York