Techie Types Go Out to Eat

Discussion
Jul 16, 2010
George Anderson

By George Anderson

If you’re reading this on a smartphone, then there’s a good
chance you’re at a restaurant. New research by Technomic has found that consumers
in "the
gotta have the latest gadget" crowd are more likely — much more in some
cases — to eat out than the population as a whole.

The survey of 1,000 consumers
found that those identified as "innovators" (eight
percent) and "early adopters" (15 percent) spent more time at fast
food restaurants, fast casual establishments and natural/specialty food stores
than those who were less tech-forward.

Key findings of the study were:


  • Innovators (83 percent) and early adopters (72 percent) visited a fast
    food restaurant at least once a week. Fifty-six percent of consumers, on
    average, did the same.
  • Innovators (53 percent) and early adopters (35 percent) made at least one
    trip a week to fast casual restaurants versus the 20 percent average.
  • Innovators (25 percent) and early adopters (20 percent) visited natural
    food stores such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s on a weekly basis compared
    to the average of 10 percent.

So what does this mean for restaurants besides suggesting that free Wi-Fi might
be a wise investment?

According to Technomic, 48 percent of innovators and early
adopters said they were positively influenced by a restaurant’s use of social
media, such as having a fan page on Facebook. Only one in four consumers,on
average, share this same view.

"Restaurant chains are working hard to tap into the reach of social networks," says
Erik Thoresen, drector of product innovation at Technomic, said in a statement, "but
the opportunity is also sizeable for independent and regional chains that develop
a strong local following among early adopters."

Discussion Question: What are the practical implications for restaurants and
specialty food stores knowing that the group of people most open to technology
are also quite likely their best customer prospects?

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14 Comments on "Techie Types Go Out to Eat"


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David Biernbaum
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

Not surprised to learn from the study that consumers who buy gadgets and technology also like to eat out! For one, we know that the consumers that buy the “latest and greatest” are also likely to be “not cheap” and they also tend to have the budgets for dining out! The restaurant and food industry should take note and if it’s appropriate, they should provide Wi-Fi in their eateries and also use the social media for advertising and promoting their businesses.

Joel Warady
Guest
Joel Warady
10 years 9 months ago

This is a great opportunity for QSRs and other dining establishments to incorporate technology into their strategy, both as a way to market to their consumers as well as keep them engaged while in the restaurant, and get them to spend more money on their meals.

Knowing the relationship between technology geeks and dining out, there is a great opportunity to move menus on to iPads, allow for pre-ordering of meals on iPhones and Androids, have live video streaming at each table to watch food being prepared in the kitchen, and have internet-enabled tables that allow for Yelp reviews right when the meal is completed.

Not only will these initiatives potentially help the restaurant brand, but it will also drive traffic to the establishments within the technology community, who tends to spend more money on eating out. There is a real opportunity here.

Ryan Mathews
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

I think the more direct correlation is between high disposable incomes (like the kind you need to buy lots of tech toys) and a propensity for eating out.

Restaurants are well advised to cater to a clientele that can afford to eat away from home. The other conclusions seem a bit strained.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

Before restaurants act on this general correlation, they need to analyze their own consumers. Does this general finding apply to their restaurant? Are these technology consumers their most valuable consumers? Then restaurant owners can strategize about how best to attract their most valuable consumers.

Rick Moss
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

I’d begin with the more obvious tech needs. In Europe, even the little independent cafes have portable credit card readers so the waiter can handle the transaction at the table. In one bistro, I was admonished for handing my card to the waiter before he had the device in hand. “No, no,” he warned. “Never give your card to a waiter. He can take it away and copy down the numbers. Very unsafe.” (Gee, good point.)

Gib Bassett
Guest
Gib Bassett
10 years 9 months ago

This same group also are among the strongest adopters of smartphones (e.g. iPhone) and therefore the marketer has a lot more options in terms of marketing to this segment. As opposed to a feature phone that may only send/receive text messages (offers/coupons), there are multiple ways to engage a smartphone user to drive them into the establishment and spend more. Best practices are emerging that tie text messaging, the mobile web, apps and social media together in interesting and effective ways.

Dan Berthiaume
Guest
Dan Berthiaume
10 years 9 months ago

Very simply, restaurants should reach out to the “always connected” customer base–social media pages (with special promotions and offers), wireless text-based ordering/reservations, mobile apps for finding a nearby location, etc. Retailers in all verticals should be doing this anyway, but given the social component of dining out and high expectations of customer convenience and service, food service is especially suited to use these kinds of technologies.

Jonathan Marek
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

This correlation isn’t very actionable. I presume these are high income consumers. They use tech gadgets and they eat out a lot. And they shop at Whole Food and Trader Joe’s. So what? Didn’t we all know that already?

Of course, restaurant chains should be aggressively testing new technologies and marketing approaches…but didn’t we know that already too?

Paula Rosenblum
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

Foursquare is a social networking boon for the food and hospitality industry. I see it only rising.

Gene Detroyer
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

I am hesitant to take on this comment because I am not very tech savvy and I may get it slightly wrong. But, several weeks ago I was at a presentation regarding how social media could be used for marketing. One of the presentations was from a 3-restaurant Mexican chain in Manhattan.

They apparently can track comments about their restaurants on Twitter. They can track it so well, that if someone is in the restaurant tweeting, they can identify who it is. If the customer makes a positive comment, they will offer the customer a free round of drinks or free desserts.

When hiring a bartender, they require the bartender to have at least 250 Twitter followers. Most have over 500 and some as many as 1,000.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

Ref the link between gadget-loving people and high disposable income, note that more of them eat in fast food restaurants than even fast casual. Just because they have money to spend, doesn’t mean they necessarily appreciate good food and/or good cooking. Even fewer shopped in stores where they could buy good food. They’re probably way too busy playing with their gadgets than cooking their food. Perhaps loss of play time is also one reason for the leanings towards fast food “restaurants.”

That said, I can see opportunities for webcams at tables so pictures of food and those eating it can instantly be uploaded to blogs. Food blogs seem to be proliferating any old way. This could be another untapped source of commentary.

Or, to take up that suggestion about androids, what about handsome mechanical guys and gals to feed them while they play with their gizmos so they can eat hands-free?

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

It does not surprise me that the leading and early purchasers of new technology like to eat out. Gee, they have no time to cook at home because they are so involved in the latest and greatest new pieces of technology. So eating out is their option. I would take it a step further and guess that lunchtime is the biggest surge in restaurant sales as a result.

Now restaurants have to stay a step ahead and find the drivers to influence this group to come to their establishment. Maybe it will be touch screen ordering and touch screen checking out. Limited face to face interaction means more time to play with their newest toys.

This is an interesting and thought provoking subject that will only gather more momentum as time moves forward.

James Tenser
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

Ryan and Jon are on the right track with their comments. I highly doubt that technophiles frequent restaurants because they feature mobile technology. It’s far more likely that heavy gadget users are also more mobile, more likely to be single and have greater disposable income than the median consumer.

Reversing the logic, however, does yield an interesting marketing opportunity for some hospitality providers. It suggests certain bars and restaurants may be more successful than others at using mobile channels to reach target customers. Ditto for airlines and hotel chains that cater to the business traveler.

By comparison, your neighborhood grocer may have a much smaller opportunity because its customers are far less self-selected.

Tim Henderson
Guest
Tim Henderson
10 years 9 months ago

Are the Innovators and Early Adopters dining out more and buying leading-edge tech because they have higher incomes? Perhaps they lead busier lifestyles that require the convenience of tech and the convenience of prepared meals? Do they shop at more natural and specialty food stores because they earn more, are more health-conscious or because more of those chains are located in areas where more upscale consumers live and congregate?

While the why behind the what isn’t totally clear here, the implications for restaurants and food chains seem more apparent: To satiate the tech and food appetites of heavy tech users–and let them know that you get their techie lifestyles–find ways to reach them via the applications they use regularly. Social media sites, mobile marketing, smart phone apps, etc, are all potentially viable ways to reach this tech-hungry consumer.

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