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How are Today’s Diners Using Their Phones?

How are Today’s Diners Using Their Phones?

diners using smart phoneSmartphones are ubiquitous. Here in the U.S. over 77% of adults own a smartphone and nearly seven in ten adults are using social media. Combine that unprecedented technology usage with the 4.5 trips, on average, Americans make to eat out at restaurants each week and you end up with some well-connected diners.

How do people in restaurants use their phones? What trends are we seeing among diners and smartphones, and how can forward-thinking establishments and marketers capitalize?

Social Engagement on Order
How are diners using their phones? What you’re likely to notice most often is diners taking photos of their food and other restaurant shots. Dining out isn’t just for sustenance, it’s an experience, and millennials in particular want to share on social. While some establishments remain phone-averse, others are harnessing the power of social engagement and encouraging hashtagged selfies, brunch pics, and food photos by implementing photo-worthy design and even bumping up the aesthetic appeal of the food they serve.

Brand Engagement Tableside
Digital tabletop marketing systems are making a huge splash among diners with cellphone in-hand. Media Caddy’s digital tabletop caddies, for example, engage diners tableside with an LCD screen streaming infotainment content, some of which is meant to be interacted with. Marketers promoting relevant websites or restaurants offering instant food promotions when diners sign up for a loyalty plan online, for example, are smart ways businesses are capitalizing on a captive audience with second screens in-hand.

Solo Dining Entertainment
Unsurprisingly, people eating out by themselves say they are far more likely to use their phones at the table. (Over 40% of solo diners admit using their phones while eating.) Restaurants looking to attract solo diners either love this practice or hate it; phones can be a useful second screen for marketers or they can feel like a nuisance in a restaurant that values customer attention and quick service. The answer may lie in engaging customers through digital content presented via a functional and inobtrusive napkin caddy outfitted with an LCD screen. Solo diners also say they like eating at the bar, in quick-service restaurants, or at communal tables, too.

Phones Down During Dinner
As quickly as cell phone usage rose, some diners are antsy to decrease it at the table. Some restaurants are going so far as to offer a small discount on dining when diners agree to give up their phone when they enter! Restauranteurs are increasingly looking for ways to pull eyes away from phones to the meal experience. In some cases this means providing tabletop cell phone chargers to offer tech-forward utility; in others it means introducing low lighting that makes it awkward – or impossible! – to snap the best Instagram of their dishes.

Paying by Phone
Nearly 60% of all Americans say they have or would use bill-pay apps to pay their restaurant bill right at the table. That’s a lot! Increasingly, restaurants are outsourcing some of the processes that slow down meal service to technology; younger diners, in particular, have no problem paying with their phones and avoiding using cash or credit cards altogether.

Smartphones are good for your restaurant. They keep customers entertained during wait times and offer you unprecedented opportunities for place-based marketing. Media Caddy is helping restaurants and businesses all over the U.S. capitalize on the ubiquity of eating out and we’re doing it one smartphone (and tabletop caddy, and bar caddy) at a time.


How can we help your integrate restaurant technology that improves sales? Our experts are standing by to talk to you about everything from ROI to white-channel marketing.

Reach out to us today to find out more.
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