After enduring a “will this ever end?” hiatus from on-premise dining, restaurants are beginning to fill tables and waitlists again…but consumers remain cautious and expect safety-conscious, digitally-enabled dining experiences to continue into the foreseeable future.
According to a nationwide survey of 1,000 U.S. consumers in January 2022 conducted by Popmenu, which specializes in transformative online and on-premise technologies that help restaurants increase brand visibility, guest engagement, revenue and profitability, 78% of those vaccinated for COVID are still concerned about dining in person at restaurants; 50% of those unvaccinated for COVID share the same sentiment. The study, which also looked at consumer dining trends in Q4 2021, uncovered an evolved normal for dining preferences and behaviors on-premise and online.
Among the key technology-related findings: 82% of consumers want contactless dining options on-premise going forward because they feel it is safer and enables them to order and pay their bill faster. While half prefer a combination of digital and server support, 1 in 4 (26%) prefer a completely digital experience with no server.
“Despite lingering concerns, consumers can’t help but miss their favorite eateries and many are dining in person again or plan to in the near future — but with different expectations,” said Brendan Sweeney, CEO and co-founder of Popmenu. “Consumers became accustomed to new ways of doing things during COVID and 75 percent of them expect restaurants to offer more digitally-enabled experiences both online and on-premise going forward. This doesn’t mean that hospitality has to be compromised at all, and the continued deep shortage of available hospitality workers in many ways necessitates the involvement of more technology to make staff more efficient. As the restaurant industry works toward sustained recovery, a greater emphasis on digital connections and convenience will help to enhance guest experiences which will always be grounded in excellent food and service.”