OpenTable’s New Survey on Technology and Dining Out

Last week, OpenTable released a thorough report on the state of technology and dining out. The report covers topics like tech at the table, preparing for the meal, reservations (duh), restaurant communication, and automation. (The stats on phone usage while dining are particularly thorough.)

It contains a few surprises: 44 percent of respondents think that tech could play a bigger role in fine dining in the future (fine dining, to me, is a human business. Injecting tech can be a real challenge); and that over a third of diners are into having a button on the table to alert the waitstaff to an issue. (Maybe just… raise your hand to flag a waiter?)

It also contains plenty of non-surprises, like the fact that diners prefer to rely on reviews and search sites like Yelp and word-of-mouth to make dining decisions as opposed to formal dining critics (only 20 percent of respondents “always’ or “frequently” look to professional reviews for recommendations). The survey also addresses ticketing; according to OpenTable only 11 percent of diners are interested in pre-paying for a meal. I don’t know that ticketing is the future of restaurants, but do believe it’s great for certain types of restaurants operating under a certain structure.

The full report, containing these stats and a whole lot more, is available as a free download from OpenTable.

The Little Guy Finally Wins Big

According to recent analysis, Bloomberg reports, for the first time, popular chains are taking a backseat to mom-and-pop restaurants in popularity.The research firm that completed the analysis attributes the shift to sites like Yelp, which can be used as free marketing. Add in social media and any number of the recommendation apps and services, and suddenly it’s a whole lot easier to find trusted restaurants that don’t carry a recognizable brand name or logo.

Perhaps this is why the larger chains (Taco Bell, for example) have embraced creative marketing strategies to woo customers, creating new — dare I say innovative — menu items (like Doritos Locos Tacos!) and honing a specific, unmistakable brand voice to support marketing and advertising initiatives. Still, local, indie food is hot right now, and according to the report, “Customers these days believe locals have better food, service, deals and even decor.”

One restaurant consultant says it best, as quoted in the piece: “It’s “authentic” and Instagram-able experiences that diners are searching for these days. It’s not experiential to sit in a rundown McDonald’s.” Truth.

Union Square Hospitality Group Invests in PDX-Based Salt and Straw

Last week, Union Square Hospitality Group announced an investment in Portland-based Salt and Straw, a family-run ice cream business that’s been expanding on the west coast (Portland, Los Angeles, and now San Francisco). Salt and Straw has become a darling of the west coast ice cream scene with its sweet branding and homemade flavors like Rhubarb Crumble with Toast Anise and Pear & Blue Cheese (man, that sounds so good right now), and is run by cousins Kim and Tyler Malek. This isn’t the first investment in a smaller restaurant group for Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality; they’ve also invested in New York-based Joe Coffee and Tender Greens. Terms of the investment were not disclosed, though press coverage calls the investment “substantial.”

Lots of Room for Improvement in Food Tourism, Study Finds

Food tourism is hot right now, but according to a United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) survey, only 10 percent of tourism boards and companies surveyed believe food and beverage offerings have been adequately promoted in their destinations.

Skift has more on the survey, which shows that though people know that food and restaurants are a massive draw to tourists, official organizations want to do a lot more to capitalize on this trend. As someone who will travel for food, I find this very exciting.

Digestifs

  • Apple patented a pizza box to use at its new headquarters. (It’s round, like the building.) — Newsweek
  • VCs are looking for a sustainable delivery business. Good luck. — Bloomberg
  • How restaurants should manage a food crisis during the age of social media — FoodDive