Here’s the Technology That Customers Want (and Don’t Want) in Restaurants

Here’s the Technology That Customers Want (and Don’t Want) in Restaurants
From AR/VR to AI chatbots, here’s what customers want to see in restaurants in 2024, based on data from the Square 2024 Dining Report.
by Mackenzie Born Jan 30, 2024 — 2 min read
Here’s the Technology That Customers Want (and Don’t Want) in Restaurants


Robots are making Chipotle’s guacamole, Sweetgreen launched its first fully automated kitchen, and AI chatbots are taking orders at drive-thrus across the country. Cutting-edge technology has steadily made its way into all aspects of dining, and as the restaurant industry adapts to staffing shortages and a need to optimize production lines, it’s a trend unlikely to stop. 

But how do customers actually feel about the technology in their dining experience? Based on the Square 2024 Dining Report, which surveyed consumers from the U.S., UK, and Canada, restaurant customers have mixed feelings about technology’s role in dining. Here’s what we learned.

Restaurant customers want to explore AR and VR opportunities.

Only 15% of diners surveyed have experienced augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR) in a restaurant setting, but the majority of those who have (87%) say they would do it again. As the technology develops, there are an increasing number of use cases for AR and VR to take a dining experience to the next level. 

Consumers reported being particularly interested in using AR or VR to view a restaurant’s menu, preview the food itself, and experience the restaurant ambiance without leaving their home. As restaurants begin to trial AR and VR in their own business strategies, there’s room for restaurants of all sizes to explore how these newer tools could enhance customer engagement or showcase their offerings in a new way.

QR codes are preferable for convenience, but diners still like paper menus.

QR codes swiftly took over dining establishments during the touchless ordering era of the pandemic. And while customers are now used to them, paper menus remain an essential (and traditional) aspect of in-person dining. A full 79% of diners surveyed said that receiving a physical menu was an important part of their in-person dining experience, especially in a finer dining setting.

But QR codes certainly haven’t lost their appeal when it comes to convenience. Forty-two percent of diners said they prefer using a QR code for ordering in a fast-food, quick-serve, or casual sit-down setting.

Diners are on board with ordering through a kiosk, but less so through an AI chatbot.

When using technology to order and pay at a dining establishment, customers are most comfortable ordering at a touchscreen kiosk (70%) or doing self-checkout at sit-down restaurants (62%). But when it comes to more cutting-edge technology in the ordering process, a smaller number are interested in seeing it used in their regular dining experiences. Fewer than half (46%) are open to automated dispensing of certain items at hot food or salad bars, while 39% are comfortable with personalized menus at kiosks based on facial recognition.

As businesses begin to trial AI chatbots for ordering to help free up their staff, customers may not be fully on board with the new technology. Just 38% are open to voice ordering through a conversational AI chatbot at a drive-thru, while only 33% of consumers reported being open to voice ordering through a conversational AI chatbot in a physical restaurant. 

Almost all customers choose humans over robots.

Robots may be making a place for themselves in kitchens, but customers aren’t necessarily ready to engage with them while they’re dining. An overwhelming majority of consumers (92%) said it’s important to have interactions with human staff during their dine-in experience. 

While automation and technology can help speed up production and cut down on staff responsibilities, human staff is still an essential part of the dining experience. Whether they’re delivering paper menus, recommending menu items, or adding to the experience of dining out, human interaction from restaurant staff is not yet something consumers are willing to replace with technology. 

To access full insights on consumer restaurant preferences in 2024, download the Square 2024 Dining Report.

Mackenzie Born
Mackenzie Born is an editor at Square covering all things commerce, from starting and running a business to leveraging technology that helps it grow.


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