Automated Meal Ordering and Payment a Draw for Customers

Research reveals what customers want and don't want when incorporating tech across all restaurant segments.

May 13, 2024 - 11:36
May 13, 2024 - 11:37
Automated Meal Ordering and Payment a Draw for Customers
Gen Z adults, millennials and Gen Xers consistently give high ratings to tech that lets them order and pay on tablets tableside.

When it comes to dining out, consumers enjoying full-, limited-service, or off-premises experiences would like a side of technology with their orders, but only for specific applications and depending on the segment. 

According to National Restaurant Association research, restaurant customers said they’d prefer using more technology when ordering and paying for meals, but aren’t quite ready to have their food prepared by automated systems or robots. They also need some time to get used to ordering from AI-generated persona on video screens.

Responses to the Association’s online survey of more than 1,000 consumers were varied, based on age group, but purchasing ease was top of mind for all.

Here are top takeaways from the Association’s Restaurant Technology Landscape Report 2024 on what consumers want and what they don’t.


According to the survey, customers dining out at fullservice restaurants expect and enjoy the hospitality employees provide, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon. Overall, they indicate that use of technology, though nice to have, isn’t essential.

The highest-rated fullservice tech options—using tech to order and pay—are a plus because customers wouldn’t have to wait for servers to take their orders and wait times for the check at the end of the meal would decrease significantly as well. 

When asked which tech-related options they’d use most at fullservice restaurants, Gen Z adults, millennials and Gen Xers consistently give high ratings (60%-80%+) to tech that lets them order and pay on a tablet at the table, place orders using a smartphone app, pay their check using contactless or mobile payment options, or pay with a digital wallet (Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Google Wallet, etc.)

Younger consumers are much more accepting of technology in fullservice restaurants. With the exception of paying the check on a tableside tablet (47%), around a quarter to third of baby boomers would likely use other tech options during their dining occasion.
Fullservice restaurant customers identified two tech options they’d need more time to get used to. 

  1. Food delivered to the table by automated systems or robots (37%).
  2. Food prepared by automated systems or robots (29%).


Most limited-service customers said they’d like to use technology throughout the entire dining occasion, believing it would speed transaction times, provide more accuracy, and be more efficient. Customers at quickservice restaurants, delis, and coffee shops, were asked how likely they’d be to increase their use of tech options.

  • 70% said they’d use a smartphone app to place an order. 
  • 65% said they’d use an app to pay for their meal.

The survey also found that most Gen Z, millennial, and Gen Xer customers said they’d use smartphone apps at limited-service restaurants. Baby boomers, though more inclined to use smartphone apps in this segment, were still less accepting, overall, than younger generations. 

Customers further cited four additional tech options proving popular in the limited-service category.

  1. 65% would order their food using a self-service kiosk
  2. 63% would use a self-service electronic kiosk to pay for their orders
  3. 58% would place their order with a live person via video screen
  4. 57% said they’d access menus on a smartphone using a QR code

Limited-service consumers, like their fullservice counterparts, said they, too, would be less inclined to want to use automated systems and robots during a dining occasion. According to the survey, only 36% of respondents indicated they’d want to order food delivered by automated systems or robots, and 30% would want their food prepared by them. 

Also, while limited-service customers don’t mind placing orders with a live person through a video screen, they’re not as enamored of interacting with an AI-generated persona just yet. 


Compared with the fullservice and limited-service segments, use of tech in the delivery/takeout segment is already baked into consumers’ expectations. Off-prem customers expect to access, order, customize, and pay for orders on their computer screens or smartphones, and if they can’t, they’ll order elsewhere.

The research found that delivery customers are much more likely than on-premises customers to embrace technology. 

  • 84% of respondents said they’d place delivery orders using a restaurant’s website.
  • 8 of 10 delivery customers, including nearly 6 in 10 baby boomers, said they’d place delivery orders using a smartphone app. 
  • 79% of delivery customers said they’d like to use contactless or mobile payment options.
  • 73% would like to pay using a digital wallet, such as Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Google Wallet, PayPal or Venmo. 
  • 71% say they’d be likely to order delivery through a third-party service, like DoorDash, Grubhub, Uber Eats, or Postmates.

What types of technology are delivery consumers less comfortable with? 

  • 45% said they’d likely order delivery using a voice-enabled platform, like Amazon Alexa, Google Home, or iPhone’s Siri. 
  • Fewer than 4 of 10 customers would order food delivered by a drone or robot.

When asked how increased tech options would positively impact delivery service, customers cited three areas: increased speed, accuracy, and improved packaging.

  1. 24% said tech would provide more accurate times when orders are delivered.
  2. 24% said tech would make delivery faster.
  3. 19% said better packaging would allow for a greater variety of foods for delivery.

Rob Conti, SVP of Information Technology for family-dining brand First Watch, said his company loves the idea of leveraging what every customer has readily available in his or her hand—a cell phone—to elevate their overall dining experience. “Technology allows us to serve more demand without giving up our commitment to hospitality.”

Download the Restaurant Technology Landscape Report 2024