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Restaurants serving up high-tech 'digital dining'

The entire dining experience is going high-tech, from how you check in to how you place your order, and even how you pay.
February 11, 2014 12:00:00 AM PST
When it comes to dining out in 2014, you might be interacting more with your smartphone than your server at your favorite restaurant. The entire dining experience is going high-tech, from how you check in to how you place your order, and even how you pay.

"A lot of us are finding now that we're being invited more and more to download apps onto our own smartphones to check our table wait times, to settle up our check or even in some cases to order," said Brian Westbrook, a digital consultant.

Apps do everything from give you reward points or discounts for being a repeat customer, to allowing you to pay without ever getting a paper check or swiping your credit card, to alerting you when your table is ready.

"You get an idea of how long it's going to be. Is it going to be 20 minutes? Is it going to be 30 minutes? And then it will notify you, it will say, 'Hey, your table is available,'" said Westbrook.

While diners may love the convenience, restaurant consultant Brandon Hull says owners do use the technology for marketing and for research, gathering information about you.

"They have details on your favorite food, your favorite drink, the frequency that you're coming by," said Hull.

But not everyone is biting when it comes to this new technology. Gathering information on customers doesn't always sit well with diners who prefer privacy.

"Sometimes there can be too much digital interaction," said Westbrook. "You can be buried in your smartphone at a restaurant. It's not a bad idea just to turn that phone off and enjoy the company you're with, enjoy the fine meal."

Ultimately, Hull says, digital dining is expected to improve the customer experience and will become much more prevalent in 2014.

"That's the future, that's where we're going with this and they need to embrace that," said Hull.

If you use any dining apps that store your payment information, make sure you keep an eye on your credit card statements to confirm the amount you are charged by the restaurant matches what you actually ordered.


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