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Consumers Head Back to Restaurants with Mobile Phones in Hand

Oracle Food and Beverage study shows people ready to eat out but want to minimize contact and are choosing restaurant apps over aggregators

A new Oracle Food and Beverage survey shows that 71% of US diners are ready to eat out again and 42% feel comfortable being seated indoors. They also plan to eat out more frequently, with 78% planning to dine out monthly (up from 59% last year). Given 53% of respondents felt “devastated” or missed going to their favorite bar or restaurant during the pandemic, this comes as little surprise. However, diners are still cautious and want to limit contact where possible. The majority of consumers (73%) plan to reduce their use of cash, and 49% want to reserve their table, order, and pay through a mobile device.

When it comes to ordering out, 81% of people indicated their loyalty lies with restaurants over third-party delivery apps. Sixty-eight percent prefer to order directly from a restaurant’s own website or app if given a choice.

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“After a year of take-out, consumers are looking forward to going out to eat, and restaurants are certainly eager for them to return,” said Simon de Montfort Walker, senior vice president and general manager, Oracle Food and Beverage. “The challenge will be balancing the steep increase in on-premises dining with continued demand for take-out service. Being able to adapt quickly to the changing needs in staffing, kitchen operations, and inventory for this hybrid environment requires technology that will cultivate this great guest experience.”

The results were part of an Oracle Food & Beverage global study conducted by Untold Insights in March 2021. The survey polled 511 US residents and an additional 1,533 consumers in Australia, the United Kingdom, and Mexico to understand their expectations on eating out. Download the Restaurant Scene: 2021 Consumer Trends report.

New rules of engagement for operators and consumers

The survey shows that the behaviors that became a necessity during the pandemic will be the norm moving forward.

  • 73% plan to reduce their use of cash at restaurants moving forward.
  • 49% would like to minimize human interaction by reserving tables, ordering, and paying through a mobile device.
  • 46% want to settle the bill on a mobile app without waiting for a server.
  • 39% prefer to order ahead on their device to reduce wait times.
  • 37% would like to track the status of their order through a mobile app.
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Consumers also understand they must adjust how they engage with restaurants, which still operate on razor-thin margins.

  • 75% surveyed won’t object to cancellation fees if their party doesn’t show up for a reservation.
  • 71% won’t mind if restaurants limit reservation windows, restricting the allotted amount of time per table.

These are generally considered acceptable strategies for businesses to manage social distancing measures that have reduced seating capacity. On the other hand, 41% of those surveyed objected to being charged if members of their dinner party don’t show up, and (35%) would be unhappy if they were charged for lingering beyond their allotted time at the table.

Customers have gotten more loyal to their favorites and prefer ordering direct

A similar July survey showed that 39% of customers ordered more frequently from local/independent restaurants over the past year. As the pandemic continued, this loyalty grew.

  • 44% think ordering directly from a restaurant best supports local independent businesses.
  • 47% seek out promotions and discounts directly from restaurants.
  • 40% look to restaurants for loyalty/rewards schemes.

“Consumers see the benefit of third-party delivery apps as a resource to discover new restaurants, but understand the importance and value of buying direct,” added de Montfort Walker. “Consumers are motivated by personal offers but are only willing to share so much. It’s incumbent upon restaurateurs to ensure they have a data strategy the allows them to deliver highly personalized offers, and that’s where a smart mobile strategy really helps.”

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