Americans, especially millennials, are hungry for restaurant innovation.
According to a report on restaurant technology usage from Technomic, 79 percent of restaurant customers surveyed agree that technology improves their experience at an eatery. New payments and engagement systems are especially popular among younger consumers, according to the report, with 77 percent of North American customers between ages 18 and 34 reporting that they want more modern options at restaurant chains.
Unattended retail technology, or order-at-the-table systems, has become an increasingly popular form of modern technology at restaurants. According to a survey from the restaurant app OpenTable, 55 percent of users have used on-table touchscreens to place an order recently, and roughly 80 percent reported liking using the devices.
Kodisoft is one company leading the dining tech revolution, with interactive restaurant technology (IRT), their line of interactive, touchscreen tables that allow customers to order food and interact by using just the surface in front of them. PYMNTS recently spoke with Dan McCann, the company’s president, about how unattended retail is affecting the restaurant industry and what’s on the road to come.
A new kind of tableside service
The restaurant and food service industry is constantly looking for ways to reduce ordering time, enabling service to more customers, while cutting costs and, in turn, earning more revenue. Unattended retail technology for restaurants is designed to do just that, by simplifying restaurant operations and allowing businesses to cut labor costs by automating the ordering process.
The IRT tables are made of thick, diamond-glass tops with an HD retina display that is still sensitive enough to detect specific movements via multitouch and proximity sensors. The table can distinguish between a person’s hand and silverware or cutlery on a table to avoid confusion or unintentional orders.
After sitting down at a table, guests can use the tables to order their drinks and meal, as well as request anything else they may need, which reduces the need for a full wait staff. After meals are finished, guests can pay their checks at the table via an integrated card scanner or a smartphone app or mobile wallet.
According to the Technomic survey, consumers are particularly hungry for innovation in fast-food and fast-casual settings, with 89 percent of respondents saying they wanted more payment options at those businesses.
McCann reported that IRT has found particular success in these kind of environments.
“The tables leverage Kodisoft’s proprietary multitouch technology, which was designed specifically to survive and thrive in public environments,” McCann explained. “For the past few years, our system has been deployed in food service environments in restaurants and shopping malls for fun and efficient menu ordering, showing 30-plus percent uplift in sales with reduced labor costs.”
While many customers are glad to see more modern payment options in the restaurant industry, new payment methods may not be enough to help restaurants keep up with the tech Joneses. According to a recent report from Gallup, it’s especially important for restaurateurs to ensure that customers are engaged and having an enjoyable customer experience if they hope to turn a diner into a regular.
According to the survey, casual dining customers make 56 percent more visits a month when they are fully engaged compared to when they are disengaged, and 28 percent of fast-food customers do the same.
In an effort to up engagement, many of these order- and pay-at-the-table systems allow customers not just to order food but also to play games, earn rewards points, interact on social media and pay the check when their meal is complete.
IRT goes one step further, McCann said, by allowing customers to interact using nothing but the surface in front of them. Guests can log into their social media accounts using integrated apps on the table, play games online or against other people at their table or even watch movie trailers and purchase tickets to a local cinema if they want to continue their night out.
McCann pointed out that social media allows guests to share their experiences with the new tech in real time, turning them into instant testimonials for tech and restaurants that use it. He also said diners report interacting with other guests at their table more often, because they are sharing one surface and screen rather than bending their necks over their own individual smartphones.
“Kodisoft has reinvented multitouch surfaces to bring back communication to the dinner table rather than the smartphone,” McCann said. “IRT intelligently recognizes objects, human voices and faces and consumer profiles for simple access to preferences and social media accounts via NFC or QR codes, with over a million digital interactions and counting.”
Dining’s brave new table technology future
According to OpenTable’s report, unattended and pay- and order-at-the-table technology is not going anywhere anytime soon at restaurants.
While the majority of respondents had used the tech recently, even those who have not used these services yet are mostly in favor of using them in the future, according to the OpenTable report, meaning more of this type of technology should soon be on the way.
McCann said that he expects interactive dining solutions like IRT to become more popular in the future, as social media and other integrations become an expected part of restaurant visits. He also cited the labor savings that automated systems can provide. Restaurants and other food service providers employ more minimum-wage workers than any other sector in the U.S. As calls for a federal minimum wage increase gain popularity, restaurant owners are looking to automation to offset costs.
With diners hungry for innovation in the dining room, it may not be too long before your next restaurant table does a whole lot more than just serve as a resting place for entrees and appetizers.
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About The Tracker
The PYMNTS.com Unattended Retail Tracker™, powered by USA Technologies, serves as a bimonthly framework for the space, providing coverage of the most recent news and trends, as well as a provider directory to highlight the key players contributing across the segments that comprise the expansive unattended retail ecosystem.