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However, the dining landscape has been altered by the circumstances of the past year resulting in new expectations on- and offline.
In 2021 this sets the stage for restaurants to build even stronger customer relationships, enhancing loyalty and engagement to new levels.
Reading customer expectations correctly and acting accordingly will be paramount to attracting and retaining regular visitors.
Our research shows that only about one in five diners would object to no-show cancellation fees after reservations, and just one in four would be unhappy about limiting the allotted amount of time per table. These are generally considered acceptable strategies for businesses to manage social distancing measures resulting in reduced capacity. On the other hand, charging for missing diners from a party or for lingering beyond the allotted time are more widely met with far less support.
With smartphones now firmly lodged in just about everyone's pockets, customers have shown an increased enthusiasm for mobile interaction with the restaurant they're dining at and a desire to manage their own journey.
Adoption of mobile menu reading and ordering varies even more strongly across markets, with consumers in Mexico especially keen to increase their use of mobile tech wile dining.
Settling the bill on mobile is especially on the rise across markets, as the shift from already-popular contactless card payments to tapping your phone or even paying the bill without any human interaction is a logical one.
Enthusiasm for fully mobile web payments hovers at around 50% in most markets, and 76% in Mexico.
2020 saw takeout business boom across the globe, creating opportunities and challenges for restaurateurs.
While curbside pickup and drive-thru's are the norm in the US, most UK audiences would rather go hungry than stand in line and prefer to get their food delivered instead.
These two approaches are also marked by different tech solutions: Delivery apps that aggregate restaurants in the customer's local area, versus restaurants' own mobile or web apps for online ordering.
Customers clearly indicate that their loyalties lie with the restaurant itself rather than with the app provider. Ordering direct from the restaurant enables customers to show support for local businesses, and there is a clear preference for direct ordering once customers become a regular.
We have seen that the main benefit of delivery apps for consumers is discovery. However, consumers still have some misconceptions about what these apps do with their data and the extent of their information that is shared with the restaurants.
There’s also some confusion about how the apps split revenue with restaurants, with many expecting fees to be fairly low. What consumers are clearer about is who is responsible when things go wrong: The restaurant is to blame for bad food or packaging, while the delivery company is at fault when it comes to late deliveries and cold food.
Offering direct digital ordering and delivery options means business owners keep hold of their customers’ data, which they can use for personalized offers and a curated experience like custom menus for diners with allergies.
Transparency is key. Customers want information about the restaurants they are visiting or ordering from, including information about cleanliness ratings, location, and allergen information or nutritional content. Accessibility of relevant information provides customers with the added confidence to make buying decisions.
With the right omnichannel technology stack that connects every interaction to a transaction, restaurant owners and operators can bridge data gaps through cohort analyses. They can then apply machine learning to continuously improve loyalty offers based on response, engagement, and redemption rates. Ultimately beating third party aggregators at their own game.
Restaurateurs have a tremendous opportunity to leverage the power of customer understanding through digital transformation. Cultivating stronger customer relationships based on transparency and offering convenient, seamless, and safe experiences requires a thoughtful approach to technology.
Restaurant Scene 2021: Consumer Trends
Independent study conducted by Untold, a marketing and growth consultancy.
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