Looking up restaurant info? No one uses an app for that.

Do you think your restaurant is behind because there isn't a smartphone app for your business? Chances are, diners wouldn't have downloaded an app for your restaurant anyway.

Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters/File
Iraqi youths eat the pre-dawn Suhoor meal before the start of the daily Ramadan fast in a restaurant in Baghdad, July 8, 2015. Restaurant owners don't need to worry about creating an app for their business; most likely, patrons would't download the app anyway.

If you’re struggling to develop a smartphone app for your restaurant, relax. New research from online-reservation service OpenTable finds that diners aren’t eager to download apps for their favorite restaurants. Instead they prefer to do an Internet search for your restaurant to get info. So invest in your website as well as an app.

OpenTable’s study, “Technology and Dining Out 2015,” is based on input from 6,000 diners, all of whom are 18 or older and who made at least one reservation via OpenTable in the previous 12 months.

Only 6% of respondents said they would be “very likely” to download an app for an individual restaurant or restaurant group. And 56% say they would be “unlikely” or “very unlikely” to do so. The most-often cited reason for avoiding apps? Lack of data space on the diners’ phones.

That doesn’t mean consumers don’t want to use technology to improve their dining experiences. They already heavily rely on the Internet: 88% “always/frequently” use the Internet to make reservations (remember, respondents are OpenTable users); 87% use it find a restaurant; 86% check menus (how good is your site’s photography, OpenTable asks). 

Diners wish they could use their smartphones to know how long a wait will be at a restaurant (85%); add their names to a waitlist (83%); text a restaurant if they’ll arrive late; or know what that day’s menu specials will be (58%). Relatively few say they are interested in pre-ordering (14%) or pre-paying (12%).

While only 15% say they have used on-table technology to summon waitstaff for reordering food or drinks, 40% say they like the idea of being able to summon waitstaff or reorder (38%). And although just 13% say they have tried mobile payments via a smartphone, a majority of diners are positive or neutral about the idea.

OpenTable’s study concludes with a caution not to forget the human side of service: “Making your guests feel special throughout their meal is as critical as it’s ever been. Technology can help on the margin of course, by helping staff be more responsive an allowing diners to provide m ore input into their experience—but as you consider tech investments, don’t skimp on training your staff to deliver the type of hospitality that will keep your guests coming back.”


Another bit of research that should be of interest to operators everywhere comes from the UK. Foodservice consultancy Horizons’ latest Eating Out-Look survey (conducted by YouGov) finds a bit of a hiccup in the continuing recovery from the Great Recession. Here 69% of respondents said they had dined away from home in the two weeks prior to the survey, compared with 71% dining out a year ago.

Dining-out frequency also declined, dipping to an average 1.92 times in those two weeks, versus 2.21 times a year ago. Average spend during eating-out occasions also fell slightly: to £12.54 in June 2015, down from £12.72 in June 2014. The decline in eating out was most pronounced among consumers ages 35 to 44. Those between 18 and 34 continue to be most likely to dine away from home.

“The slight dips that we are seeing in pockets of the eating out market suggests that some consumers, particularly the squeezed middle, are choosing to spend their money elsewhere,” says Horizons foodservice analyst Nicola Knight. “We are comparing this year’s figures with those of 2014, which was a particularly strong year for eating out. It’s important to remember that the overall trend is positive and the market is stronger than it was three years ago.”


Let’s conclude with some news about a favorite topic: Big Burgers. Carl’s Jr.tomorrow (July 22) will introduce the first extension of the grass-fed All-Natural Burger (no hormones, antibiotics or steroids) it introduced in December.

The Mushroom & Swiss All-Natural Burger features “natural hand-picked sautéed mushrooms” and “natural Swiss cheese” plus sliced tomato, mayo, lettuce and red onion on one of the chain’s signature baked-in-house buns. TV advertising begins July 27; Carl’s Jr. isn’t saying if the spokesperson will be another model or something more natural.

Meanwhile, Burger King in Argentina has introduced the Stacker 5.0, a five-patty burger (above), with cheese between the layers and bacon at the crown. Three- and four-patty versions of the burger are available for those who lack gaucho-size appetites.

And in Canada, The WORKS Gourmet Burger Bistro chain has brought back its beer-burger promotion, this year called “Burger Brewbecue.” Running through September the menu includes the Up Beer Creek with a Bacon Paddle ($15.81), an 8-oz. burger with two pieces of Moosehead beer-battered bacon, Cracked Canoe caramelized onions, Barking Squirrel BBQ sauce, melted Gouda and leaf lettuce; Chick n’ Waffles ($15.81) with a seasoned juicy chicken breast topped with smoked bacon, Moosehead Beer Maple BBQ sauce, fried egg, green onions and leaf lettuce between two warm Belgian waffles; and Barking at the Barnyard ($15.81), a signature 8-oz. bacon and beef patty topped with smoked brisket, Barking Squirrel BBQ sauce, caramelized onions, Jack cheese and bacon.

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