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Abby Francis - Mobiles.co.uk

Mobile and the restaurant industry

Introduction

There’s no doubt that smartphones have turned our lives upside down since we sent our first character-counted text messages back in the ‘90s.

Their ability to make our lives easier every day by keeping us connected with friends and family is unrivalled. But how are smartphones changing our everyday behaviour like eating out at a restaurant?

As a nation of food lovers - with 30% of people eating out more often than they did 10 years ago 1 - we commissioned a study into the way smartphones are changing the way we dine out.

This includes how we share the experience, which restaurant chains are using phones to their advantage, and who’s getting in hot water for playing with their mobile under the table.

To find out how we’re balancing two of our greatest loves, we’ve studied the use of common food hashtags, mentions and 20 restaurant brands. We focused on social media over a two-year period, using a list of established and emerging names from the R200 2015 Directory. Here’s what we found...

Resturant Selfie

How are we using phones in restaurants?

There was once a time when having a phone out at the dinner table was frowned upon. With the majority of us now owning one, they are rarely out of our hands, whether we’re eating out or cooking at home using an online recipe.

18% of us admit to checking our phones a staggering three or more times during a meal at a full service casual restaurant 2, but what are we doing on them?

Most of us are very snap-happy, with 27% 2 of us saying we always or frequently use our phones to take a photo, and a further 17% of us admit to sharing a restaurant experience on social media with a photo. We readily share images of our dishes, restaurant interiors and of course a much-loved selfie.

Aside from the camera, ‘checking-in’ to restaurants is becoming increasingly popular. Out of the established restaurants we analysed, Nando’s tops the list for the highest number of check-ins. Many were accompanied by a reference to the term “cheeky nandos” along with an image, so we know we’re proud of the meals or company we’re enjoying, and are keen to share it from our smartphones.

When it comes to emerging brands, Five Guys performed best when it came to the number of check-ins. Interestingly three out of the top four restaurants based on check-in mentions were burger chains; Byron, Burger and Lobster and Five Guys.

“Eating is one thing that everyone has in common and taking photos of amazing food is so appealing - particularly as the world is broadening its tastes, and people are trying dishes that they haven’t tried before.”

Andre Johnstone, Head of Digital and Loyalty at Wagamama

Our go-to app for sharing content from our smartphones is Twitter, with this channel proving most popular to shout about what we are eating. It claims a 63% share-of-voice for conversations relating to eating out, followed by forums, which make up 21% of mentions.

12% of us have used our phones for mobile payment at a restaurant, with the vast majority finding it to be a positive or neutral experience. Our willingness to use mobile payment in the future appears significant, with 43% saying they have never used their smartphone to pay at a restaurant but they like the idea 2. This is likely to become a reality as Apple Pay and latest addition Android Pay become available in more and more locations.

Contactless Payment

Who dares to share?

We know that 93% of UK adults personally own or use a mobile phone, and with 72% also having at least one social media profile 3, sharing foodie experiences in real-time is easier than ever.

It turns out that you’re more likely to whip out your phone and share if you’re a female student or creative professional, but only just. While students and creatives were found to have the most discussions about going out for a meal on social media, women only just pipped men to the post, taking a 60% share of the social conversation.

You might also want to get yourself picture perfect if you’re dining out with a sports or music fan, foodie or movie fan, as they’re often the ones sharing their food thoughts and photos. The same goes for key calendar dates like Valentine’s Day and Christmas, where we saw a consistent hike in food and restaurant mentions. Dining out conversations almost doubled on Valentine’s Day 2016, but saw the biggest increase when footballer Luke Shaw tweeted asking ‘Am I not allowed to go out for dinner?’ when his meal out the evening after a defeat was covered by The Mirror.

And while social media is often the first port of call if you’re an unhappy customer (67% of us have used a brand’s social media channel for customer service 4) we are far more likely to rave about our experience than slate it: 26% per cent of people shared positive experiences in our study, compared to just 7% who were negative.

Professions (%)

Interests (%)

Find out how restaurants can make the most of increased smartphone use, here.

Mentions

What are we talking about?

Despite dining out more than we used to, we still see it as a special treat and know to keep an eye on the costs. Analysis of the key topics found that lots of us had conversations or asked our social followers about the best ways to split the bill in a large group. Many of us also referenced healthy eating or the quality/taste of our food.

Topics (%)

What next?

Mobile phones may be a highly popular addition to the dinner table, but it’s safe to say they haven’t always been the most welcome. Restaurateurs have blamed them for slower service, as we focus more on our phones than ordering their food, and several have called for phone bans.

But as phones become more advanced and new services are introduced, we could see far more positives from using our phones at the dinner table. Increased use of mobile payment services could speed things up, while connected devices may change the dining out experience completely.

Whatever happens, we are clearly keen to build smartphones into our experiences – including dining out. Where we (consumers) go, businesses often follow, so we’re looking forward to seeing the most adventurous restaurant brands catering for more than just an appetite, and setting an extra space for our smartphones at the table.

Restaurant Mobile
"Mobile has continued to grow across many different fields, but the restaurant industry in particular has seen a massive impact. From checking in to restaurants to sharing pictures of our food, phones are involved in every step of the eating out process. With people wanting to use their phones more and more for day to day tasks, it makes sense that they would want a range of discounts available at their fingertips. Our digital card was launched in October 2013, and the app is now a key way for our members to enjoy getting their dining discounts on the go. Members using our digital card continue to increase year on year as more and more people get familiar with using technology within restaurants."

Matt Turner, CEO of Tastecard, the UK’s biggest discount dining club

Noel Hunwick, Marketing Director at London based inamo told us how they’ve used technology to offer a unique experience in their restaurants:

“My business partner Danny and I happened to sit next to each other at a friend’s birthday in a restaurant 11 years ago, and were really struggling to catch a waiter’s attention for another drink, or to get the bill. We wanted to buy more and give the establishment our money but they weren’t letting us. Danny already had in mind ways of integrating technology seamlessly into the dining experience, and we brainstormed it at the time and from that point on worked on it together. We thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to reach down, touch the table, and another drink would arrive, and be able to request the bill when you’re ready to leave.’ We were very aware from the start, however, that the food is king in any restaurant, and that it was key to get this right."

“We wanted to give guests control, and so from this initial concept Danny and I created the E-Table™ technology ourselves – at the time (2005), smart phones and tablets had not yet been developed!"

“At inamo, Soho each guest uses a touch sensitive panel to interact with our system, which is projected from above onto their table surface. Order when you want, get your bill when you want, and call a waiter at the touch of a button, but the human element is very much still present. You can see a tasteful image of the dish/drink item you’re considering projected onto the plate in front of you, with a price and description to the right. You can then decide to add it to your order, and whenever you’re ready can send that directly off to the kitchen/bar to be prepared,"

“At inamo Covent Garden we’ve introduced a tablet based version of our ordering system (which will soon synchronise with the ability to order on-table too)."

“We have now been open for eight years, which for a London restaurant reflects its success and the positive reaction to our concept. We’ve had over ¾ of a million diners through our restaurants, which shows that guests enjoy the restaurants and regularly return.”

mobiles restaurant report

References

1-) Tastecard data - 10 years

2-) OpenTable data

3-) http://media.ofcom.org.uk/facts/

4-) https://blog.bufferapp.com/social-media-customer-service