Digital Dining: What Restaurants Need to Know Now

In February 2023, our Revenue Management Solutions (RMS) data analytics team advised on the benefits of attracting and keeping frequent diners. According to our Q1 2023 survey, frequent users were not just visiting QSRs; they planned to keep visiting. These raring-to-dine customers were twice as likely as other respondents to increase their future visits. 

At the time, we advised digital apps as a way to attract the profitable frequent user.  

But don’t just take our word for it. Our recent survey on restaurant apps, loyalty and dining choices gave us insight into what your customers think. Frequent users (ordering from restaurants more than five times a week) were far more digitally engaged with brands. When asked about restaurant apps, 80 percent had at least two, compared to just three in five of all users. Just 20 percent of non-frequent users downloaded at least two restaurant apps. 


The pandemic increased digital discovery overall, but frequent users have upped their app ante even more in the past year. When survey respondents were asked if they have more apps now than in 2022, 38 percent of those visiting restaurants frequently reported an increase, compared to 26 percent of all respondents. Unsurprisingly, Gen Zers were the most likely to download in 2023 – 45 percent have more apps now than in 2022. 




Why does this matter to your bottom line? About half of respondents rely on apps for loyalty or rewards promotions, an effective and profitable way to grow your brand’s reach in these price-sensitive times. Family households, also a demographic that restaurants seek to keep, are increasingly joining loyalty programs ­– 37 percent said they are members of more compared to last year. 


Survey respondents weren’t just browsing. They’re buying too – 40 percent of respondents place takeout orders on their apps and 30 percent place delivery orders. Fifty-six percent check out the menu – and our recent eye-tracking study with human behavior researcher iMotions builds the case for capturing diners early in the online journey.  


Apps aren’t the only traffic drivers, of course. RMS dug deep into many influences on dining choices – including social media. Knowing your audience is essential for social media promotions. The channel most influences younger generations, while 80 percent of boomers said they don’t rely on social media platforms to guide their food and restaurant choices. Within channels, millennials and Gen X favor Facebook and Instagram, while Gen Zers prioritize TikTok. Interestingly, 56 percent of all respondents still rely on the recommendations of family, friends and colleagues – and even Gen Z values personal connections and online searches equally. 


Restaurant operators have more on their plates with the growth of the digital environment. The key is designing practical strategies to optimize profitability, sales and financial success.