Study Finds Mobile Devices Influencing Consumer Restaurant Choices

Peter Roesler, President - Web Marketing Pros

By Peter Roesler

President, Web Marketing Pros

mobile-textMobile devices are playing a larger and larger role in the way we do business. Mobile devices help people shop online, find local businesses and more. Clearly, this creates a lot of opportunities for local business owners. Though it may not be as obvious, mobile devices also improve things for restaurant owners. A recent study from OpenTable examined the way that diners in the U.S. are using their mobile devices to find the perfect meal, even when they’re at the restaurant.

OpenTable’s surveyed 6,000 diners in the U.S. to find out how, and to what extent, they used technology before, during and after their dining experience. It’s more than just people using their smartphones to ignore the dining partners. Mobile devices offer a lot of ways for people use technology to improve the dining experience.

Many consumers check restaurant menus, prices and specials before they set out to a location. Pictures of food gets shared with friends on social media sites and some consumers go to review sites afterwards to tell everyone about their experience. From start to finish, mobile devices shape the modern consumer’s dining experience.

“At OpenTable we sit right at the intersection of food and tech, which makes us infinitely curious about what people want from technology when they dine out,” said Leela Srinivasan, OpenTable’s VP of Restaurant & Product Marketing. “Dining out, like virtually every area of life, has been transformed by technology, but in an industry in which hospitality is paramount it’s important to strike the right balance for your restaurant concept.”

OpenTable, whose app allows diners to find open tables at restaurants, have compiled their survey results into an ebook – ‘Technology and Dining Out 2015‘. The ebook has a lot of useful information that restaurant owners can use to make their business more amenable to this growing sector of techno-diners.

One thing restaurant owners and marketers need to do is ensure that online information is as accurate as possible. At a minimum, prices and specials should be current. The OpenTable studied found that 86 percent of diners check online to browse a restaurant’s menu before going to the restaurant. Having information that’s clearly out of date (e.g. St. Patrick’s Day specials on the homepage in October) consumers will be less likely to trust the information they see. The worse thing that can happen is for people to come to a restaurant expecting something they saw on the website, only to find that it’s unavailable.

Website should also have reviews, which was also mentioned by many of the diners as something they check before going to a restaurant. Professional reviews and reviews from customers on social media should be easy to find from the home page. Something that many restaurants don’t have on their websites but should are wait times. A large percentage of the people surveyed by OpenTable indicated they wished they could do before heading out to restaurant is check wait-times (85%) or at least put themselves on a waitlist prior to arriving (83%).

As was mentioned before, many diners use their mobile devices while in the restaurant. However, whether or not a diner does depends on the restaurant and the situation. The study found that 63 percent of diners say they “never” or “rarely” used their phones in fine dining establishments, compared to just 35 percent who say the same for more casual venues. Despite the percieved taboo, about one in four diners  “always” or “frequently” use their mobile phones while at the table to research or decide what to order. And about the same number (23%) take photos of their meals.

Restaurants that pride themselves on the beauty of their food and place settings, should encourage customers to take and share photos of their foods. This has multiple effects. First, it promotes the restaurant to the followers and friends of the diner. Second, it improves the diner’s experience because they’re going to get a lot of likes and comments from their friends about the food. It adds an element of fun to the dining experience that goes beyond the food.

The study also had data that suggested restaurants should be moving towards including mobile payment options. The surge in mobile payment technology has made an impact on the restaurant industry. More than half of consumers (54%) have paid for a meal using mobile payment methods. It’s not that cash and credit cards haven’t worked for restaurants, rather, it’s about consumer preference. As more people grow accustomed to and develop a preference toward mobile payments, they will seek out businesses that support that preference.

For more information on how restaurants can benefit from internet marketing, read this article on Facebook’s test of professional reviews on restaurant business pages.

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