The report from Zonal and CGA by NIQ, Go Technology People vs Tech: what guests want in 2023 polled more than 5,000 UK adults and revealed insights into consumer preferences with technology.
Seven in 10 (71%) prefer to use technology either exclusively or combined with human interaction.
When looked back to 2020, 43% of consumers had used apps or other solutions to order and pay in the months following the sector’s post-lockdown reopening and this was double the number who did so pre-pandemic.
On average, the average monthly spend on eating and drinking out was £24 more among consumers who prefer technology (£114 compared to £90 who prefer human contact).
Half (50%) of those who preferred technology were aged 18 to 34 however, almost 73% of those surveyed said personal interaction was a main reason human contact enhanced their experience.
Tech v human interaction
Top five benefits of using technology:
Ease of use (40%)
Less pressured (38%)
Moreover, the top four tasks guests preferred to use technology for were all about before visiting a venue – a booking reminder (60%), cancelling a booking (51%), making a booking (47%) and making a pre-visit enquiry (35%.
However, the four main reasons they prefer to do with human contact take place inside a venue – ordering food (59%), settling the bill (59%), ordering drinks (58%) and leaving a tip (58%).
Zonal chief sales and marketing officer Olivia FitzGerald said: “The role of technology in hospitality is clearly growing rapidly in a post-pandemic market but this doesn’t mean we all want hospitality that’s all about robots and automated processes.
“In fact, it’s more important than ever not to underestimate the importance of human connection.
“The research makes it clear that for consumers, the best hospitality experiences are those offering the right balance of technology and traditional face-to-face service.
“Hospitality is a sector that is brilliant because of its people and it is important technology enhances that by working in the background, doing the heavy lifting and alleviating staff pressure so they can focus on what they do best – delivering exceptional service to their guests.”
Having both options available is what consumers are looking for, according to CGA by NIQ hospitality operators and food director Karl Chessell.
He added: “This research emphasises the enduring appeal of the personal experiences hospitality delivers so well.
“But while many consumers still enjoy human interaction from the start to finish of their journey through a restaurant or pub, it is clear many people now want the option to use digital solutions at every step and the number will only grow.
“Wherever technology is deployed, choice and flexibility are key. It can be a superb enabler for hospitality for guests and operators alike, giving consumers the speed and convenience they want and freeing up teams to focus on what they do best.
“In such a competitive and challenging market, brands making the smartest use of tech, without compromising human elements, have a crucial advantage.”