Skip links


What’s in-store for 2019: Five restaurant tech trends to watch this year

Technology aimed at making people’s lives easier is rolling out en masse wherever you look. From asking your car to turn your lights off at home, to paying instantly by tapping your phone against an NFC point, to unlocking your device through facial recognition – 2018 tech trends have been all about stripping friction from every day transactions and providing the ultimate in convenience for time-strapped customers.

One sector storming ahead with self-service technology is the Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) & Fast Casual industry. In 2018, a number of fast food giants took the lead from McDonald’s Experience Of The Future’ (EOTF) model and incorporated multi-self-service channels into their digital strategy. In July, Taco Bell announced it would install self-order kiosks in all 6,875 of its restaurants by the end of 2019; Panera Bread reached 33% digital sales in October, supported by a strong kiosk strategy, while McDonald’s pledged to ramp up its roll-out of the EOTF model to include 12,000 stores by the end of 2019 after seeing same-stores sales improvements of up to 4.2%.

This year, we expect to see a further push towards omnichannel digital experiences in restaurants where the power is given back to the guest, particularly when it comes to choosing how and when they’d like to pay. Recent industry studies show shows that 84% of customers rate a quick and efficient dining experience as important, while 56% are willing to share data in return for a faster and more convenient service.

Turning our focus to the in-store environment, these are the top five tech-related trends we expect to shake up the QSR industry in 2019:

  1. Bring Your Own Device 2018 has undoubtedly been the year of the kiosk in quick-service restaurants. From McDonald’s, to Taco Bell, to Burger King – fast food giants across the board have realized there is money to be made from implementing self-service technology. From increasing total transactions, to a higher ATV and a remarkably fast ROI – self-order kiosks are no longer a nice-to-have: they are a requirement. However, at $30,000 per average investment, hardware does not come cheap. In 2019, we predict industry trailblazers will adapt the technology to run on mobile devices – meaning customers can access the service themselves and operators can skip the hefty hardware bill. And with recent news stories in the U.K surrounding the bacteria that can gather on self-standing kiosks if staff do not commit to regular screen cleaning, there’s even more reason to start considering consumer-owned hardware.
  2. The data revolution As quick-service restaurants begin to resemble tech companies that offer food, as opposed to traditional fast food businesses, we expect to see data. Lots of it. And more being done with it.  With digital channels now incorporating mobile apps for order ahead, third-party delivery apps, at table ordering, in-store kiosks, self-checkout, order via voice assistant, order via social media… restaurant enterprises are opening their doors to a vast amount of data. 2019 will see businesses start to extrapolate that information and look at it in more detail to learn more about their customers, offer personalized menus, drive loyalty, inform new products – and ultimately, refine the guest experience. Indeed, by 2020 it is expected that 40% of all data analytics project will relate to an area of customer experience.
  3. Re-design for off-premise Off-premise is set to boom in 2019, propped up by the burgeoning delivery space which has grown 73% in the past decade to a market worth of £4.2 billion. As with guests dining in-store, those ordering off premise are growing increasingly accustomed to a luxurious level of self-service, one-click-ordering and personalized choices when interacting with any product or service so it is no wonder restaurant delivery, drive-thru, catering, and order ahead for in-store collection have been such a hit this year. However takeout for pickup including drive-thru still has the edge on delivery; generating $124 billion in 2018 alone, while delivery (direct or third party) is lagging at $45 billion. With order ahead on the incline, we expect to see quick-service restaurants undergoing major in-store transformations and renovations in 2019 to accommodate the increasing number of orders for pick-up. Previously minor considerations such as placement of queue signage and counter-space for pick-up will become even more important. Failure to adapt store layout could have severe ramifications, as evidenced by Starbucks last year. The quick-service coffee giant didn’t consider order throttling when rolling out their order ahead service on their mobile app and lost 2% of customer traffic in one month as guests abandoned the line on seeing the 30-minute wait time. The company solved the problem with a two-pronged approach: sending an SMS alert to app users when their order was ready and creating specific pick-up areas for collection.
  4. Loyalty reimagined This year we expect to see brands focus less on loyalty scheme conversions and instead funneling their efforts into showing guests how loyal they are to their customers as a brand. 2019 will be the year that companies realize loyalty can only be achieved through fine-tuned, personalized experiences delivered to customers at the optimal time, through the optimal channel. No longer simply a reward for not leaving, loyalty will be about optimizing value across the customer lifecycle. To offer a truly personalized experience, hospitality operators are beginning to recognize a need for a platform that integrates data from any source and streams separate customer events in real time. This will equip marketers – and the platform itself through a rules-based mechanism – to react to customer movements across channels, compile a complete profile of who this person is, and decide what service they need. For example, a customer might join a coffee shop loyalty scheme and be sent a welcome email tailored to their geographical area or place of sign up. Incorporating geo-location functionality, they might later be sent a notification through their app to tell them that you’ve noticed it’s 30°F outside, so a hot drink at 20% discount is waiting for them at their nearest store. On purchasing their coffee, they might be prompted with a cross-sell informed by previous orders. And sparingly, on exiting the store, they could be sent a satisfaction SMS to find out how you could have made their experience better. To achieve this, this year we expect to see an uptick in hospitality operators investing in platforms that have the ability to send cross-channel communication via email, SMS, push and in-app messaging, paired with loyalty hubs that manage point-based offerings.
  5. Web apps over native Why would you not opt for a mobile app? Studies show that a quarter of all apps get used once in the first six months of ownership and two thirds of apps fail to reach 1000 users in the first year. Add to that the high cost of user acquisition, and you really wonder why brands continue to invest hundreds of thousands in developing apps that people probably won’t use… Enter: the web app. With low-friction web applications such as Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) there is no app to download or registration required. The customer simply connects via a web page to their information in the point of sale system. And the journey doesn’t have to start by clicking on a URL; the menu can launch on a customer’s phone by pointing their camera at a QR code, or by holding their device against an NFC tag. The approach is less focused on user acquisition or capturing customer data and instead concentrates on providing a digital service that customers will adopt on a large scale. It can also be split up, with guests having the option to use the app at different points of the journey so they can order and pay altogether at the start, or pay at the end and place their order with a server – whatever suits the needs and style of the business. With customers less inclined to part with valuable real estate on their phone – paired with the accuracy, efficiency and staff-saving benefits that come with At Table solutions – web apps are locked and loaded to become one of the next big disruptors in hospitality tech.

If the last few years are anything to go by, 2019 is set to be a truly transformational year in restaurant technology. We’ll report back in 12 months to see which of our predictions were on the mark. In the meantime, check out our predictions from 2017 to determine our reliability rate!

Keep up to date with our news
and don’t miss a chance to join the team!