How Restaurants Are Embracing Technology in 2024

On March 27, the National Restaurant Association came out with its Restaurant Technology Landscape Report 2024. It’s no surprise to discover that operators are leaning into tech more than ever before, embracing possibilities and relying on it to enhance their profits. The report looks into the response from consumers as more technology enters the field and the segments that are best served by the latest advancements. 

According to Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research for the National Restaurant Association, “The pandemic accelerated operator technology utilization and consumer comfort with using technology in the restaurant experience. Looking ahead, that rapidity of change will continue to be a constant.” He also noted the importance of aligning the technology based on the segment and customer demographics.

Let’s explore how today’s technology is affecting the restaurant industry. 

Offering a Competitive Edge

Over 75% of operators believe using technology offers a competitive advantage, and over half are looking to enhance the customer experience or improve service through these advancements.

The Difference in Generational and Types of Restaurants

It’s clear that the younger generations are more familiar with this landscape, with 82% of Gen Z’s comfortable using a smartphone app to place an order. Gen Z and millennials are likely to interact with a tablet, while baby boomers would be less comfortable with this option.

Overall, 65% of customers are comfortable using tablets at full-service restaurants to make digital payments, and 60% would use them to place their orders. This changes significantly based on the type of restaurant. 

  • Regarding full-service restaurants, 64% of customers would select one that incorporates more traditional employee service over one that integrates technology into the experience. Just 27% of full-service restaurant operators are considering developing a smartphone app in 2024.
  • In contrast, 40% of quick-service brands are investing in smartphone apps this year. Customers also appreciate the speed of service derived from QR code-enabled menus and self-service kiosks. 

Delivery and Technology

Today, a restaurant’s competitor is not just the neighborhood eateries; it’s even more so the guest’s home. Over 80% of customers said they would use a restaurant’s website or mobile app to place an order for delivery. Comparatively, 71% of customers said they’d use third-party platforms.

Several brands are also looking at a different delivery model—the delivery drone. While it’s been talked about and tested for some time, 2024 may be the year of its implementation. These drones are powered by AI, determining the most efficient aerial route, steering clear of obstacles, and using a winch system to lower the food. 

Some of the restaurants invested in this potential answer to many delivery challenges include El Pollo Loco and Brinker International, home to Chili’s, Maggiano’s Little Italy, and the virtual brand It’s Just Wings. 

Artificial Intelligence in the Workforce

AI is making it big across industries, and restaurants are no exception. The National Restaurant Association’s report revealed that 16% of operators expect to invest in AI in 2024. This includes the growing use of voice recognition technology. 

Currently, AI is commonly used in the BOH for inventory management and menu planning, using predictive analytics to suggest customer preferences based on the time of year and seasonal trends. In the future, the FOH may join in with some of the tableside assistance coming from AI-powered devices.

This may come in the form of helping customers navigate menus and make suggestions by analyzing past data and considering their preferences and any allergies. It can help a customer make a tableside payment and support guests from different parts of the globe who speak a different language.

Keep in mind that, despite Sweetgreen’s foray into robots, only 30% of potential customers report that they would prefer food made from automation systems. Additionally, just 45% want to use voice-enabled AI to make delivery orders, and only 37% are interested in having their food delivered by a drone.


What technology is used in a restaurant?

Today, one of the most in-demand technologies is cloud-based and mobile POS systems. Mobile systems enable servers to take orders and process payments on a handheld device, such as a tablet. 

Will AI take over restaurants?

While it may seem that AI may one day rule the world, the restaurant experience requires a human connection. Imagine walking into a restaurant and having a robot seat you while another takes your order and a third prepares the meal. While a novel experience once or twice, the lack of human interaction would soon become apparent. Quick-service restaurants are much more adaptable to this type of transition.

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