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TouchBistro’s 2024 Diner Trends Report shows diners looking for savings, convenience, and connection

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March 26, 2024 NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–New research from all-in-one POS and restaurant management system, TouchBistro, reveals that Americans are choosing takeout over dining in, quality over flashiness, and human connection over AI and QR codes.

Of the multitude of trends within the report, the overarching sentiment is that the rising cost of living, and subsequent tightening of purse strings, has made consumers across the country into more discerning diners.

By surveying over 1,500 diners from across the country, TouchBistro’s free 2024 American Diner Trends Report outlines how U.S. dining habits have shifted and what trends restaurateurs should watch.

Generational Divides

The report reveals many distinct differences between the dining habits of Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Zs when it comes to both dining in and takeout.

Younger generations are more inclined towards utilizing technology and putting a higher priority on convenience when it comes to takeout. For instance, delivery is the preferred method of takeout for 46 per cent of Gen Z, while 34 per cent of Gen Xers prefer the drive-thru. The way consumers order takeout also shakes out along generational lines, with 38 per cent of Boomers preferring to call in their orders, while 23 per cent of Millennials and 23 per cent of Gen Zs opt for the restaurant’s own app.

When it comes to choosing where to dine, each age group does it a little differently:

  • 52 per cent of Gen Z diners have made the decision to try a new restaurant based entirely on positive feedback on social media.
  • 67 per cent of Millennials have visited a new restaurant based solely on positive online reviews were the biggest motivator.
  • 83 per cent of Gen Xers have visited a new restaurant solely based on recommendations from friends or coworkers.
  • 80 per cent of Boomers have decided to try a new restaurant based on recommendations from family or a significant other.

“Our report shows that the perfect dining experience differs across various generations, and underscores the importance of cultivating an inclusive, welcoming atmosphere for every diner,” said Samir Zabaneh, Chairman and CEO of TouchBistro.

“This involves recognizing that different age groups may have unique expectations and preferences. By putting this understanding into practice and bearing these generational differences in mind when integrating new technologies and offerings, operators can enrich the overall dining experience.”

Takeout Takes Over

Ordering takeout instead of dining in has become increasingly convenient and cost effective. As a result, over 2-in-5 (43 per cent) of U.S. diners are ordering takeout at least once a week, compared to just 39 per cent who say they dine in with the same frequency.

What may be a surprise is that many prefer to keep it old-school when it comes to ordering, with 72 per cent of diners preferring to order takeout directly from a restaurant as opposed to using a third-party app. When ordering directly, 29 per cent of diners noted they usually order over the phone, 24 per cent directly through the restaurant’s website and 19 per cent through the restaurant’s own app.

Notable takeout trends:

  • When it comes to delivery, diners report that they will wait a maximum of just 30 minutes, on average, for their order.
  • Nearly a third of Americans (30 per cent) prefer to go into a restaurant to pick up their takeout orders and the drive-thru ranks a close second, with 26 per cent preferring this method.
  • The number one desired takeout innovation is the option to pre-schedule pickup/delivery orders (23 per cent). At the bottom of the list, only 2 per cent wanted AI-generated order recommendations.


This highlights the importance of integrating the right technology for restaurants to maximize their takeout offerings, while balancing speed and quality of service.

360-Degree Experience

The dining experience begins far before the consumer steps foot into the establishment. Before deciding on a new restaurant, 85 per cent look at the menu online first, while 80 per cent look at the restaurant’s website. In addition, 64 per cent of U.S. diners conduct a Google search before visiting a restaurant. When doing this research, 67 per cent are looking for food quality, 54 per cent for a specific type of cuisine, and 54 per cent are searching for value for money.

Once Americans reach the restaurant, personalized service is paramount. Only four percent of U.S. diners want to order from a QR code, whereas a whopping 85 per cent of American diners prefer to order from a physical menu and speak with a server.

While technology is essential to making restaurants more efficient, it’s clear that operators need to ensure that technology never gets in the way of hospitality.

“Consumers certainly have mixed feelings about the role of tech in their dining experience, with their main concern being that it will take away from that personal, human-led experience,” said Samir Zabaneh. “There is ample opportunity for operators to utilize technology without disrupting the guest experience by leveraging it in the back of house or to create digital touchpoints to draw consumers to the restaurant. At TouchBistro, we’ve seen firsthand how solutions such as inventory, invoicing, and email marketing automations can all help to make operations faster and more efficient, ultimately allowing staff to better focus on the in-venue guest experience.”

Looking Ahead

As dining habits continue to be heavily impacted by economic conditions and generational differences, here are five emerging diner trends to watch:

  • Menu Price Increases Due for a Pause: While inflation has slowed, diners are still feeling the effects of cost of living increases. 31 per cent say a price hike would significantly impact their choice to dine at a particular restaurant – and that number jumps to 40 per cent among Gen Zs, which is the group that dines out the most.
  • Rethinking the First Touch: This year’s data shows that a lot goes into the decision-making process before a diner visits a new restaurant. Since a potential customer’s first experience with a restaurant is now a virtual visit, restaurants need to make sure they are giving their digital footprint proper attention.
  • Speed Without Sacrifice: The ease and speed of ordering takeout has significantly impacted diners’ expectations. 21 per cent say they won’t even wait a full 15 minutes for takeout/delivery and this number jumps to 43 per cent among Boomers.
  • However, it is important to note that the biggest takeout frustration among U.S. diners is receiving the wrong order. As a result, operators need to strike the right balance between speed and quality.
  • Restaurant Tech with a Human Touch: Technology has become an integral part of the dining experience, but consumers still crave a human connection. As Americans have concerns about how technology may alter their dining experience, restaurants need to ensure they prioritize customer service.
  • Loyalty Programs Built for Power Users: Nearly half (46 per cent) of Americans say they are currently part of a loyalty program, which is up 10 per cent from 2022. This trend is particularly noteworthy as some of the most frequent diners are loyalty program members. In 2024, all restaurants – especially QSRs – should focus on engaging their power loyalty users to reap the most rewards from loyalty programs.

For more information, the 2024 American Diner Trends Report can be downloaded for free HERE.

To learn more about TouchBistro, go to www.touchbistro.com.

Methodology

We partnered with research firm Maru/Matchbox to survey 1,500 diners in the U.S. Our research was conducted from September 12th to September 21st, 2023. Survey results are accurate +/- 3% for the general population of American diners.

About TouchBistro

TouchBistro is an all-in-one POS and restaurant management system that makes running a restaurant easier by providing essential front of house, back of house, and guest engagement solutions on one powerful platform. TouchBistro helps restaurateurs streamline and simplify their operations, increase sales, and deliver a great guest experience. For additional information, visit TouchBistro.com.

Contacts
Media Contact: Joyce Li | [email protected] | 416-414-4797

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