Yet one thing is clear: Customer experience still matters to dine-in guests.
Technology is increasingly becoming an integral part of the dining experience. What is now QR codes and contactless payment may become even more complex in the future with the existence of the metaverse.
A study from a Paytronix and PYMNTS Report entitled, “The Digital Divide: Technology, The Metaverse and the Future of Dining Out,” found 33 percent of surveyed consumers are grab-and-go users at this stage of the pandemic recovery, while 43 percent prefer to dine in.
Grab-and-go customers proved mostly millennials, while dine-in customers skewed toward Baby Boomers and seniors. Grab-and-go guests were most likely to view technology as a positive part of the customer experience.
Generation Z is also embracing tech as a permanent fixture of future dining—55 percent said they were encouraged by QR code technology as a replacement for physical menus.
Dine-in customers, however, were not as excited about the introduction of more tech into the experience, with only 26 percent of respondents noting they felt positively about switching to QR code menus.
This suggests grab-and-go customers, who tend to be younger, value the use of technology to make their dining experience more efficient and quicker, while dine-in guests would rather human servers not be replaced.
This further was supported by data regarding customers who use high-tech features in restaurants, per the report. Grab-and-go customers were more likely to use these features—65 percent of them said they use digital wallets and 59 percent tap self-service kiosks and special pickup points.
Though many people are leaning toward tech inside restaurants, consumers still value customer service touches like friendliness and staff continuity, the report said.
People appreciate coming back to a restaurant and seeing familiar faces, with 74 percent of respondents saying being served by the same waitstaff every time they visit was a positive experience. This held true across demographics, the report showed.
It comes at a time where restaurants continue to grapple with labor. Of those surveyed, 36 percent at least partially agreed restaurants they visit have become understaffed, while 27 percent strongly agreed. In tandem, 26 percent partially agreed the service at restaurants they visit has become less personal, while 13 percent more strongly agree.
Into the metaverse
The metaverse, “an advanced, social, virtual reality platform,” has been gaining recognition in recent years as well. In terms of restaurant customers' knowledge of the platform, 33 percent of grab-and-go users said they are very or extremely familiar with it, according to the report. Millennials were the most likely demographic to have participated in the metaverse, possibly because they have more money to spend.
Though many are familiar with the concept, people are still forming opinions about it. Of consumers in a high-income bracket, 12 percent said they thought the metaverse was interesting. Many consider the platform too complicated, with 21 percent of people noting they were not interested in buying food through the metaverse.
However, of the customers that already participate in the arena or who said they were interested, 38 percent would be willing to “integrate restaurant purchases into this environment,” the report shared.