As technology is part of daily life for many Americans - and a critical tool of convenience - the desire to use options like touch-screen ordering, smartphone apps and mobile payment when dining out is stronger than ever.
According to new research from the National Restaurant Association, 63 percent of Americans have recently used technology at restaurants, such as using a smartphone or tablet to order takeout or delivery, with even more saying they are likely to do so if these options become available. In turn, nearly half of restaurateurs plan to devote more resources to customer-facing technology this year.
The research also reveals that seven out of 10 consumers ages 18 to 34 have looked up locations and directions on a smartphone or tablet in the past month; half have used a computer to order food or make reservations; 35 percent have placed takeout/delivery orders on a smartphone or tablet; and more than one-quarter has used a smartphone to find nutrition information.
What will consumers order with this new technology? The National Restaurant Association's What's Hot culinary forecast predicts menu trends for the year ahead by surveying nearly 1,300 professional chefs. The 2014 survey showed that locally sourced items, environmental sustainability and healthy kids meals will continue to be top menu trends for the year, reflecting consumers' growing interest in what they eat and where their food comes from. To find restaurants that serve nutritious options for children, download the National Restaurant Association's free Kids LiveWell app.
Eight out of 10 consumers say restaurants offer more healthy menu options now compared to two years ago, and seven out of 10 say they are more likely to visit a restaurant that offers healthy options.
Environmental sustainability is a long-term trend among operators and consumers. Nearly three out of five consumers say they are likely to make a restaurant choice based on its eco-friendly practices.
Looking further ahead, environmental sustainability, local sourcing, health-nutrition, children's nutrition and gluten-free cuisine topped the list for current food trends that will be the hottest menu trends 10 years from now. The five items that gained most in trendiness since last year in the annual survey were nose-to-tail/root-to-stalk cooking, pickling, ramen, dark greens, and Southeast Asian cuisine.
As families look more and more for healthy eating options both at home and in restaurants across the country, the improvements in technology will make dining choices much easier to make.