Should we digitalize everything? Evidence from the Fine-dining Restaurants in France

Digitalization is probably the term, which is omnipresent in your daily life. However, what does the digitalization exactly mean for companies? Should we digitalize everything? To what extent services could be digitalized? Could we have the same degree of digitalization for high-end and low-end services?

Recently, we have conducted a research on service digitalization of fine-dining restaurants in France in order to know what customers and the restaurant professionals think about the digitalization of fine-dining experience. The following figure highlights the key findings of our study and underlines the perceived benefits and costs of service digitalization for both restaurant managers and their customers.

Source: Vo-Thanh et al. 2022

As we can see from the figure that 100% digitalization is not possible for fine-dining restaurants. Fine-dining restaurants are highly experience-centric compared to other types of restaurants and customers want to relax, enjoy haute cuisine experience and interact with the chef & frontline employees. For example, in many fast-food chains (e.g., Burger King, KFC, McDonald’s), where speed of service is critical and menus are simpler, digitalizing the whole customer journey or incorporating the use of SST (Self-Service Technology) has been a great success and will continue to play an increasingly important role. However, in the context of fine-dining restaurants, where the aim is to deliver a superior and memorable experience to customers, 100% digital interaction (i.e., radical digitalization) is not the best solution because of the existential foundation of fine-dining restaurants—their experiential and symbolic dimensions—and their customers’ expectations. Therefore, the lack of human interaction is the biggest obstacle to digitize the dining experience.

Illustration of High-Tech VS High-Touch Restaurant
(Photo of SST in Burger King & Chef Alain Ducasse 3* Michelin Chef)

Our study also finds that the digitalization could help restaurants to optimize their performance (e.g., quick task accomplishment, staff performance improvement, reduce psychological waiting time, etc.). Therefore, our study highlights how restaurant managers may find a balance between the high-tech and high-touch in order to provide the best fine-dining experience to their guests.

Main research : Vo-Thanh, T., Zaman, M., Hasan, R., Akter, S. & Dang-Van, T. (2022). The service digitalization in fine-dining restaurants: A cost-benefit perspective. International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management (forthcoming).