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80% of Restaurants to Invest in Tech This Year: Study


More than eight in 10 restaurant operators agree that use of technology provides a competitive  advantage and plan to make investments this year, according to the National Restaurant Association’s 2019 State of the Restaurant Industry Report.

The annual report examines forces impacting and shaping the restaurant industry including the economy, workforce, technology, food and menu trends, as well as developments pertaining to tableservice and limited-service restaurants. The report analyzes data from a variety of nationwide surveys among restaurant owners, operators, chefs and consumers.

Must Have: Delivery

Growing demand among consumers will make off-premises options important drivers across the industry this year. Nearly four in 10 operators plan to invest more in off-premises dining.

Thirty-eight percent of U.S. adults — including 50 percent of millennials — indicate they are more likely to have restaurant food delivered than they were two years ago. Other key takeaways surrounding off-premises and delivery include:

  • Six in 10 family-dining, casual-dining and fast-casual operators say their takeout sales are higher than they were two years ago.
  • A solid majority of casual-dining (72 percent), family-dining (63 percent) and fast-casual operators (64 percent) say their delivery sales are higher than they were two years ago. Fewer than one in 10 say their delivery sales have declined.

Other key finding include:

  • Restaurant industry sales are forecast to reach $863 billion in 2019
  • Approximately half of restaurant operators rate their business as stronger than two years ago; and
  • 1.6 million new restaurant jobs are projected to be added by 2029.
Four in 10 operators will invest in off-premise dining, says National Restaurant Association's annual study.

When asked about the economy, restaurant operators are generally optimistic about business conditions. However, operators are also acutely aware of competitive pressures, rising labor costs, a tighter labor market, and a complex regulatory landscape that compounds pressure on business performance and revenue.

Technology Investments
Specific technologies where operators will devote more investment and resources include:

  • Front-of-house, customer servicing technologies such as online or app ordering, mobile payment, delivery management and reservations. Seventy percent of quickservice (where patrons generally order or select items and pay before eating) operators plan to invest on these technologies.
  • Back-of-house technologies such as point-of-sale, inventory and table management, customer-facing tech devices such as tablets, iPads, tableside ordering and kiosks.

“Consumer demand for greater convenience and speed will continue to accelerate, and restaurants are responding by adopting and incorporating more sophisticated layers of technology into day-to-day operations,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president, research and knowledge group, National Restaurant Association. “Operators across all restaurant segments will focus on building their business among millennials and younger consumers in the years ahead. To attract these digital natives we can expect the majority of operators to get creative in offering personalized incentives, deals, loyalty programs and rewards through various digital channels.”

Additionally, operators plan to tap into technology to reach diners. A majority of operators in each of the industry’s six major segments say they plan to devote more resources to both social-media and electronic marketing in 2019. And a majority of operators plan to devote more resources to customer-facing, service-based technology, such as online or app ordering, reservations, mobile payment, or delivery management.

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