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Automated Ordering and Payment - A Boon or Bane for Diners?

Customers Embrace Convenience, But Draw the Line at Robots in the Kitchen

Diners across all segments – full-service, limited-service, and off-premises – are increasingly open to using technology to enhance their dining experience. However, a recent study by the National Restaurant Association reveals a clear preference for certain applications over others.

The Restaurant Technology Landscape Report 2024 (Opens in a new window) shows that while convenience reigns supreme, diners aren't quite ready to embrace a fully automated dining experience.

Full-Service: Where Hospitality Still Reigns

While technology plays a growing role, full-service restaurants remain a haven for those seeking a traditional dining experience with a human touch. Here, technology is seen as a valuable tool to enhance efficiency, not replace human interaction.

The most popular tech options in full-service establishments focus on streamlining the ordering and payment process:

  • Tableside tablets: (60%-80% positive response across age groups)

  • Smartphone apps for ordering: (60%-80% positive response across age groups)

  • Contactless or mobile payments: (High adoption rates)

  • Digital wallets: (High adoption rates)

Younger diners (Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X) are more receptive to these technologies, while Baby Boomers tend to prefer traditional methods. Notably, Baby Boomers are less enthusiastic about tableside tablets for payment (47%).

Interestingly, full-service diners expressed a reluctance towards automation in food preparation and delivery:

  • Food delivered by robots: (37% would use)

  • Food prepared by robots: (29% would use)

Limited-Service: A Tech-Savvy Crowd

Limited-service customers, on the other hand, seem to fully embrace technology. They see it as a way to speed up transactions, improve accuracy, and enhance overall efficiency. The survey reveals high adoption rates for:

  • Smartphone apps for ordering: (70%)

  • Smartphone apps for payment: (65%)

Similar to full-service, younger generations lead the charge in tech usage. Baby Boomers, however, are catching up, showing a growing openness to smartphone apps in this segment.

Limited-service patrons also expressed a positive response to:

  • Self-service kiosks for ordering: (65%)

  • Self-service kiosks for payment: (63%)

  • Video screens for ordering with a live person: (58%)

  • QR codes for accessing menus: (57%)

As with full-service, limited-service customers remain hesitant towards robot integration:

  • Food delivered by robots: (36% would use)

  • Food prepared by robots: (30% would use)

While video screens for placing orders with a live person find some favor, interacting with an AI-generated persona is less appealing at this stage.

Delivery: Tech is the Norm

Technology is already an ingrained expectation in the delivery/takeout segment. Diners expect seamless online or mobile ordering with customization options, and a smooth payment process.

The study highlights a strong preference for tech-driven delivery:

  • Restaurant websites for ordering: (84%)

  • Smartphone apps for ordering: (80%, including nearly 60% of Baby Boomers)

  • Contactless or mobile payments: (79%)

  • Digital wallets: (73%)

  • Third-party delivery services: (71%)

Delivery customers remain less enthusiastic about:

  • Voice-enabled ordering platforms: (45%)

  • Drone or robot delivery: (Less than 40%)

Interestingly, diners see technology positively impacting delivery speed, accuracy, and packaging:

  • Improved delivery time estimates: (24%)

  • Faster delivery: (24%)

  • Improved packaging for a wider variety of food options: (19%)

The Takeaway for Aruba's F&B Industry

The Aruba Food & Beverage Association recognizes the growing importance of technology in the dining experience.  This report offers valuable insights for Aruba's restaurants to consider:

  • Embrace Tech for Convenience:  Cater to customer preferences for online ordering, mobile payments, and contactless options.

  • Maintain the Human Touch:  While technology streamlines operations, ensure warm and friendly service remains a cornerstone of the dining experience.

  • Strategic Automation:  Consider self-service kiosks and digital menus in limited-service settings, but proceed cautiously with robotic integration.

  • Delivery Innovation:  Offer a user-friendly online ordering system and explore partnerships with popular delivery platforms.

By strategically embracing technology while preserving the human element, Aruba's restaurants can thrive in the ever-evolving dining landscape.  This approach will not only attract tech-savvy customers but also ensure a welcoming and memorable dining experience for all.


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