New consumer study reveals how technology improves and impedes the restaurant experience

New consumer study reveals how technology improves and impedes the restaurant experience

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Service Management Group (SMG), a global customer, employee and brand experience management partner to more than 500 brands, has published new research that highlights how digital ordering and automation impact the customer experience.

Using its brand experience platform that combines operational measures with behavioral data, SMG fielded this study to understand what technology consumers prefer to use in restaurants, the most common issues experienced and how the digital experience impacts visit behavior. With feedback from more than 12,000 consumers, here are three key insights to help restaurant brands deliver a more seamless and highly satisfying omnichannel restaurant experience.

  1. The mobile app is where it’s at – The mobile app is the most adopted and favored technology among restaurant customers, with 3 in 4 respondents having used a mobile app to place an order and nearly 40% indicating they use restaurant apps to order often. While restaurant app downloads surged as a result of the pandemic, our research indicates driving app adoption is an ongoing challenge for restaurant brands. In a study earlier this year, more than 80% of consumers reported having at least one QSR app installed on their phone, but more than one in three respondents had not used a restaurant app to place an order in the last 30 days. However, when they are implemented effectively, mobile apps can add incremental traffic, with nearly 1 in 4 respondents indicating they intend to visit brands with mobile ordering more often.
  2. Problem occurrence is an obstacle – With the increased use of technology across the restaurant industry, problem occurrence is presenting challenges across every digital touchpoint. Though mobile apps are the most favored technology for digital orders, one in four respondents have experienced a problem with a mobile order, with the inability to customize or make substitutions being the most common issue. And problem occurrence with on-premise technology is even more common: 40% of respondents have experienced a problem with kiosk/tablet and QR code orders, with difficulty using the technology being the most common issue for both touchpoints.
  3. Employees define the experience – While technology can be an effective way to complement the restaurant experience, more than 40% of respondents are either less likely to visit or will not visit restaurants with a fully digital ordering experience. Not surprisingly, hesitance to use digital touchpoints increases with age, with more than 45% of consumers aged 35-54 and nearly 60% of consumers aged 55 and older preferring in-person ordering. While consumers who are 45 and older prefer in-person interactions over all forms of digital ordering, nearly 1 in 5 consumers across all age ranges either believe ordering technology is difficult to use or that it doesn’t improve the experience.

“While technology can help restaurant brands streamline operations and create more frictionless experiences, brands need to keep the consumer—not the tech—at the center of their strategy to develop an optimal omnichannel experience,” said SMG Research Director Kurt Cederman. “Winning brands are enhancing operations with intuitive and simple technology that makes the restaurant experience faster and more frictionless for consumers.”

To learn more about how SMG helps restaurant brands change how they act on customer and employee insights to drive stronger business outcomes, visit the restaurant experience management page.

About Service Management Group
SMG is a leading experience management (XM) provider, accelerating value by changing how brands act on customer and employee insights. With a rich 30-year history rooted in The Service Profit Chain, SMG is the industry’s only software with a service (SwaS) provider—uniquely pairing an enterprise platform with professional services to help brands generate new revenue, grow existing revenue, reduce churn + detractors, and drive operational efficiencies. To learn more about our customer, employee, and brand experience management solutions, visit