Washington Restaurant Market Watch: Tabletop ordering gains favor with Millennials

Washington Restaurant Market Watch: Tabletop ordering gains favor with Millennials https://wahospitality.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/fastcasual500-508x198.jpg

By Paul Schlienz

Want Millennial customers to embrace your restaurant? Convenience and speed will always be strong selling points with this age cohort born roughly between 1982 and 2000.

Not surprisingly, a recent survey revealed that younger diners are readily embracing tabletop ordering devices in casual dining restaurants. In contrast, older customers still prefer face to face contact with a live human being when placing a restaurant order.

“It sometimes surprises me to see how comfortable Millennials really are with technology,” said Cheryl Flink, chief strategy officer of Market Force Information Inc., the Colorado-based research firm that conducted the study.  “They are so comfortable with technology that it often seems that they would rather be dealing with devices instead of people.”

Of the 6,106 consumers surveyed, in April, 38 percent were very favorable to tabletop ordering devices while 35 percent were not and 26 percent expressed no opinion.

Forty-one percent of the 18 to 24 year-old respondents were interested in the new technology in casual dining establishments. As respondents grew older, their interest decreased. Thirty-one percent of 25 to 24 year-olds, 25 percent of the 25 to 44 year-old age group, 20 percent of 45 to 54 year-olds, 15 percent of the 55 to 64 year-old age cohort and merely 10 percent of respondents 65 or older found this technology interesting.

The reason Millennials’ reactions to this kind of technology are so dramatically different from older generations is because they are “digital natives,” as described by Jim Matorin, founder of SMARTMARKETING, a Philadelphia-based food marketing and consulting firm.

“This group has grown up on technology and social media; it is an integral part of their lifestyle,” Matorin wrote.

In other words, the technologies older generations often find exotic or intimidating are all the Millenials have ever known.

Speed of service is also a major priority for Millennials.

“Millennials are all about ‘Get it over with!’ when they’re ordering food in a restaurant, so it’s natural that they’d warm up to the idea of ordering from a tablet,” said Flink. “I believe their focus on speed will ultimately streamline the ordering process in the restaurant industry.”

The trick will be for restaurants to reach out to Millennials with the tech-friendly interfaces and a premium on speed they value without alienating older customers who long for a more personal kind of experience when they dine out.

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