OpenTable Explores How Diners Feel About Mealtime Technology

OpenTable recently released the results of its latest Technology and Dining Out research survey, revealing insights on emerging industry trends including automation and mobile payments.

The survey gauges how Canadian diners feel about using technology before, during and after a meal out, and the results are lukewarm.

“Restaurants are embracing new technology to improve the front and back of house, but as it continues to evolve, it can occasionally conflict with what diners actually want,” said Ziv Schierau, head of national accounts for OpenTable Canada.

Before a meal, just over half of diners want restaurants to know their preferred table or seating area. At 72 per cent, a majority of survey respondents would like the option to add themselves to the waitlist before they arrive.

It seems like diners are warming up to the idea of a restaurant keeping personal information about them on hand with 44 per cent wishing a restaurant knew their birthday, and a third wanting them to know their number of visits (33 per cent) and dietary preferences (29 per cent). Even half of diners weren’t bothered if a restaurant searched them up online before they arrived.

“The results of this study offer insights focused on diner sentiment and behaviours that can help restaurateurs improve hospitality as well as learn where technology can elevate or deter from the overall dining experience,” said Schierau.

Whether a diner is browsing social media or replying to an email, using a phone is still perceived by many as disrupting the dining experience, with 46 per cent saying they hate it when people they’re eating with use tech during a meal.

But when dining solo, attitudes about phone-use are dramatically different, especially for millennials. Seventy-one per cent of those ages 34 and under want their phone to keep them company when eating at a counter service restaurant.

A majority of diners aren’t ready to embrace a robot server, with 65 per cent of diners agreeing that automation takes away from their experience, but half are willing to move towards mobile payments.

The survey also revealed some bad news for restaurants who want eaters to download their own app, with only four per cent saying they’re likely to do so.

“Having multiple apps for the same function can be cumbersome,” said Schierau. “Diners want an easy and efficient way to streamline the reservation process with the ability to browse restaurants, view menus and reserve a table, all through a single platform.”