In an era of rapid technological advancements, the hospitality industry is witnessing a discernible shift in what’s possible for advancing seamless operations and a better diner experience.
But as the landscape evolves, a crucial question looms for venue operators: Are they effectively meeting the expectations of their customers, and do they agree on tech use?
ResDiary’s Beyond the Booking: Hospitality Tech Trends 2024 report has uncovered an intriguing disparity between what venues assume their customers think of tech and what they truly expect. Join us as we delve deeper into this divide and uncover the diverse needs of various diner demographics. Recognising that everyone has unique preferences could be the crucial key to tailoring your approach to your specific audience and choosing the right tech to support you.
What do diners really think about hospitality technology?
To get an idea of how diners feel about the use of technology as part of their experience, we asked them if restaurants should focus more on tech-enabled solutions. There was a relatively equal division. While more than half (53%) said to focus more, 47% said they should focus less.
When considering the generational split, 67% of people aged 25-34 express a strong inclination towards technology adoption, while almost half (45%) of customers over 55 think technology should be used less. The data highlights the growing preference of those within the 25-34 age range for features like takeaway ordering, digital wallets, and mobile-based services, signalling a shift in consumer behaviour towards convenience-driven experiences.
However, there is less appetite for certain tech-based features as part of the experience among older age groups. For example, only 37% of surveyed diners have used a digital wallet. If we break that down into age ranges, it increases to 65% for younger consumers and drops to 29% for those aged 55 and over.
So, while it is certainly a good idea to incorporate a modern approach into your dining experience, it will be important to keep all your customers in mind. Perhaps giving them more options as opposed to switching to a new way entirely is a good idea. Offering them the option of choosing to order with a member of staff or by using an eMenu would be one example.
This emphasises the vital role that your target audience demographic plays in your decision-making process regarding the integration of new technology into your business. Incorporating certain technologies too quickly for an audience over 55 may inadvertently complicate the dining experience, potentially leading them to dine elsewhere. On the other hand, failing to provide these modern solutions could impact your appeal to younger diners.
Embracing tech to serve a better experience
How do we bridge the gap between different age groups, especially when it comes to embracing new software?
The good news is most diners (81%) agree technology has made it easier for them to make a reservation, with 75% saying it’s made it easier to edit or cancel a booking. In fact, almost all respondents (93%) have made a restaurant reservation online in the last year, with 88% preferring to book directly on a restaurant’s website and 65% choosing to book via third-party platforms like Dish Cult. This could explain why 93% of venue operators already believe a reservation system to be one of the most essential technical supports to run a successful business.
Almost two-thirds of diners (64%) believe human-to-human interaction is diminished by technology, to the detriment of the dining experience. This goes to show there is a balance to be found in helping to streamline many aspects of the customer journey without taking that away.
The beauty is that most of the time, technology is implemented to support your staff and spare them from the many small tasks that can soon mount up and distract them from tending to their customers. Ultimately, with the right help, your staff could be even more focused on doing what they do best: delivering amazing experiences!
The security and privacy of customer data were also a concern among diners. This is understandable when you consider how much our information is used nowadays to secure a booking, subscribe for news and offers, and pay. This shows the need for businesses to adopt reliable solutions from trustworthy providers, especially where GDPR and payment data are concerned. ResDiary’s restaurant booking system is trusted by thousands of venues worldwide, and its payment provider, Stripe, is fully PCI compliant.
What do diners really want?
There were some key areas where diners’ opinions and what operators assumed were divided.
Loyalty programmes have emerged as an essential component for returning customers regardless of their age group. With 73% of consumers indicating a preference for loyalty benefits while dining out, it's evident that nurturing customer relationships through personalised reward systems is no longer a luxury but a necessity to delight diners and turn them into regulars. Yet, less than half of venues (43%) agree they need some sort of loyalty scheme to succeed.
Two-thirds (66%) of venues said they didn’t think takeaway ordering was important to them. Yet 66% of diners want to be able to do just that! The figure rises to 85% for the 25-34 age group.
Half of diners (50%) like being able to purchase digital restaurant vouchers as gifts for others, while less than half (42%) of venues currently use solutions for creating and selling vouchers.
Other solutions, such as digital wallets and mobile-based services, are increasingly popular among the younger crowd, so implementing these depends on your venue’s customer base. Given the popularity of table management and ordering at the table among large chunks of diners, these solutions could be important considerations for hospitality venues in 2024.
By bridging the gap between consumer expectations and technological implementations, businesses can cultivate strong relationships and create memorable experiences for patrons across all demographics. More than that, if you can address the needs and expectations of your customers while your competitors are left sitting on their incorrect assumptions, you could stand to gain a huge advantage over them.
In an era of rapid technological change, ResDiary's Beyond the Booking: Hospitality Tech Trends 2024 report illuminates a divide between consumer expectations and venue operators' assumptions. The data underscores the necessity of aligning technological implementations with the diverse preferences of different age groups.
To thrive in this evolving landscape, businesses must carefully navigate these preferences, embracing tailored approaches and reliable solutions. By doing so, they can bridge the gap between consumer expectations and technological advancements, fostering strong relationships and delivering memorable dining experiences in 2024 and beyond.