Consumers want restaurants to use more technology

Diners navigate the iPad ordering system at Stacked in Torrance. (Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times)

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If restaurants aren’t already using technology such as touchscreen tablet menus, digital loyalty programs and in-store Wi-Fi and flat screen televisions, they should probably start, according to a new report.

The majority of consumers surveyed by research group Technomic said that eateries should integrate more technology in their restaurants. More than half said they expected to use more ordering kiosks, computerized take-out trackers and other digital options when eating out down the line.

For now, email or text-based coupons, special offers and ordering programs are the most popular technologies for restaurants, according to the report. But more eateries are starting to offer free Internet and television entertainment for guests.

In 2010, Starbucks Corp. launched a free, unlimited Wi-Fi policy for patrons at its North America stores. McDonald’s, which has the same offer, also recently began rolling out the McDonald’s Channel, featuring original content to play on televisions in stores.

It’s a sensible shift, especially as more tech-savvy consumers gravitate toward restaurant review sites such as Yelp, Zagat and Urbanspoon. Eateries are increasingly turning to Facebook and Twitter to communicate with regulars and encouraging visitors to digitally “check in” with apps such as Foursquare.

And technology isn’t just influencing restaurant patrons. On the operations side, websites such as OpenTable and programs such as TableBoss help manage reservations while other options help eateries track server performance and control inventory.

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