Study Reveals Impact of Economy on Restaurant Tech Buying Trends

| March 19, 2009

For the eleventh year in a row, Hospitality Technology continues its tradition of providing its readers with the latest information technology developments and trends within the restaurant industry. The 11th Annual Restaurant Technology Study offers readers a historical glimpse of technology data so that they can easily track the trends within this segment. In this year's study, there are a number of trends and technologies that are influencing restaurant IT initiatives. As expected the impact of the economy can be seen across operations, however innovative applications of IT in mission critical areas such as cost and labor control may help companies keep their profit margins in the black. More specifically, the importance of point-of-sale (POS) technology and Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS) continues to be at the heart of many IT initiatives.

Respondent profile
This year's study is based on 191 received responses, representing 170,465 restaurant units (12,815 quick service, 45,490 casual/family, and 2,160 fine-dining restaurants).

There is a consensus among successful organizations and industries that technology strategies should be incorporated within the business plan of a company. Industries that remain competitive and robust tend to have high levels of integration between IT strategy and organizational strategy/planning. The majority of respondents in this study indicated that currently their organizations' technology strategy was either high (26%) or partially integrated/incorporated (63.6%) within their organizational business plans.

Although past respondents reported positive changes in their business metrics, this is the first year since 2006 that business metrics have decreased. It is expected that IT budgets will be cut in 2010 as a result, thus affecting the drivers for IT efforts. In fact, 71 percent of respondents reported cost-saving measures as a top IT driver in 2009, while 79 percent of respondents cited productivity and efficiency. These drivers, as a result, are having an affect on the technology that restaurants choose to implement. One area in which this is taking effect is of course at the point-of-sale.

POS system trends
Ask any operator, and they will tell you that POS systems are at the heart of restaurant management systems. For the last four years, operators have indicated accounting/financials as the leader in POS system functions (77% of respondents in 2009). This year, this is followed by labor management (71%), enterprise management (67%), business intelligence (64%), CRM/loyalty (55%), and take-out/delivery (55%).

On the POS peripheral front, touchscreens were cited as the most important peripheral, followed by receipt printers, credit card swipes, and cash drawers. Additionally, the ranking of wireless handhelds increased to 41.5% in 2009, while 29.2% of respondents ranked pay-at-table as an important function. This year's surprise increase was seen in biometric fingerprint readers with 32.2% of respondents indicating it as an important feature. This statistic aligns with the statistic on cost-saving measures because it makes it difficult for staff members to commit fraud.

Additionally, the percentage of respondents who reported that they will replace their POS system within the next 3-4 years time increased to 28.2% in 2009 (on a cross tabular analysis: 18.2% of QSRs, 37.3% of casual/family, and 23.1% of fine-dining). These statistics show that POS system replacement, although slowing in the short term, will not be significantly affected by the reduction in IT spending as it is a mission-critical system.

PCI DSS in 2009
Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards continues to be an area of importance today for restaurants as the collected data from this study reveals that many operators continue to struggle with compliance. In 2009, the most frequently reported barrier to PCI DSS compliance is "lack of education" (78.5%), followed by "limited budget" (74.8%). A cross tabular analysis of PCI DSS across different restaurant types revealed that casual/family restaurants are the most compliant segment, followed by quick service and then fine-dining restaurants. 

Click here to download the full version of the 11th Annual Restaurant Technology Study.

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