restaurant tech
Young african american woman waitress taking orders from clients in cafe

Do consumers actually want restaurant tech?

August 20, 2019

A new study exploring consumer attitudes towards restaurant technology revealed that some see it as a quick marketing gig while others expect restaurants to adopt new digital tools.

More than three-quarters of consumers expect restaurants to utilize new technologies like at-table digital feedback, ordering, and tracking as well as interactive menus and micro call buttons, according to a new study from OnBuy.com

And the majority of them (65%) even feel drawn to try new restaurants that have adopted innovative technologies, while 71% believe that new, exciting technologies are a good way to entice curious consumers.  

Consumers are already familiar with a new host of technologies taking over the restaurant industry, particularly in the quick-service restaurant space (QSR), which includes fast-food chains like McDonald’s, Burger King, and Chick-fil-A. Self-order kiosks were the most popular restaurant tech, according to 80% of respondents, while 73% said they’ve used mobile app-based food ordering. 

But not every new gadget will garner consumer favor, according to the survey of 1,689 Americans. Roughly half the diners surveyed had sampled immersive dining experiences, which includes things like digitally enhanced walls and decoration, immersive and surround-sound music, and digitally enhanced dining tables. But many of these more gimmicky technologies were rated as undesirable additions to the dining experience, including built-in games to entertain diners while they wait for their food, as well as waitlist management software, and facial or fingerprint recognition payments.


Restaurant tech is gathering steam

Technology is transforming the food system and restaurants are no exception. Entrepreneurs and technologists are increasingly jumping on the opportunity, buoyed by the activities of key players like McDonald’s, which purchased an AI decision logic startup, Dynamic Yield, for $300 million earlier this year as well as an app developer startup.

In 2018, in-store retail and restaurant tech startups captured 10% of total funding to agri-foodtech taking $1.7 billion of the total $16.9 billion pot, according to AgFunder’s latest investment report. The category includes robotic retail, shelf-stacking robots, 3D food printers, POS systems, and food waste monitoring IoT.

Some of the startups already making a splash include point-of-sale software platform Omnivore, which captured a $10 million Series A funding led by Coca-Cola last year, and Toast, which raised a $250 million Series E funding led by TCV and Tiger Global Management earlier this year. Some startups are even aiming to fight food waste in restaurants

AgFunder also recently made its first restaurant tech investment in self-service kiosk company TRAY, led by Leonardo Fonesca, our Executive-in-Residence and former CFO at General Electric O&G. The self-service kiosk market is on track to reach $30.8 billion in value by 2024 as consumers seek faster and more convenient service options. In light of Minneapolis’ recent ban of drive-thrus and speculation about more cities that could follow suit, in-store kiosks might become

 “Not only do self-serve kiosks address soaring labor costs that are squeezing restaurants and shuttering many small businesses, but it turns out customers also prefer self-serve kiosks,” Fonesca wrote in an article for AFN announcing the funding. “And that’s just the appetizer. The emergence of self-serve kiosks could be the iPhone moment for the restaurant industry. Forget looking for Yelp reviews. Instead, you’re going to walk into a restaurant and with the swipe of your credit card, get a personalized menu based on what’s popular and items you’ve ordered before at other restaurants.”

Restaurants are also likely to start interacting with technology outside of their four walls as delivery startups are looking for more efficient solutions. Postmates recently obtained the first permit to test autonomous delivery robots in San Francisco while the FAA granted approval for a drone-based food delivery pilot in North Carolina to Israeli drone maker Flytrex and drone services firm Causey Aviation Unmanned. Google’s Wing Aviation was the first company to receive FAA approval to test commercial drone delivery overall as part of the Unmanned Aircraft System Integration Pilot Program.

Do you have a restaurant tech? We want to hear from you! Email [email protected]

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