It's no surprise that finding nearby restaurants and dining options is one of the ways that people use their mobile phones. Everyone's got to eat, right? New findings from a broader mobile study last year by Yahoo and Nielsen, however, aim to shed more light on the connection between cell phones and eating out (or ordering in).
For starters, about 34 million Americans get dining and restaurant information from a mobile device. That audience skews young, with more than half falling between the ages of 13 and 34. They tend to have high incomes -- $87,000 per year -- while more than half are married and 41% have one or more children. A majority (58%) identified themselves as suburban.
To find dining information, 82% said they used search, with 68% going through their mobile browser and 17% through an app. About a third of respondents (34%) remembered seeing a dining ad on their mobile device, and most of those (77%) "sometimes" or "always" looked at it.
Naturally, most (67%) said they were looking for options in their area, and 77% said they preferred ads to be "relevant to my current location." But most weren't looking for three-star restaurants. Nearly half (49%) were interested in casual sit-down dining (at popular chains such as Chili's, Applebee's and Olive Garden), while 30% wanted fast food such as McDonald's or Subway.
Only 23% expressed interest in getting information on fine dining (places like Morton's Steakhouse and McCormick & Schmick).
"The data shows an evolution," says Edwin Wong, Yahoo director of market research, in a Yahoo blog post Monday. "Before, it was the early adopters and 'foodies' who were driving toward fine dining and niche dining experiences, with users accessing sites like Yelp.com. As mobile usage has grown, we're seeing more interest in mass market dining info. That's a trend we expect to continue."
It also makes sense that if people are already on the go, using their phones to find a place to eat, they're more likely to opt for McDonald's or Applebee's, rather than an upscale restaurant requiring a reservation. "When on the go, people often make dining decisions spontaneously, according to the Yahoo/Nielsen study. "They do a little research, usually taking no more than a few minutes to come to a decision."
Wong noted that adding click-to-call was one of the best ways to help users connect instantly with a restaurant or place a takeout order. Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed (61%) had an interest in this feature. More broadly, the study recommends that restaurants should optimize their sites to answer questions users are likely to ask about menus, location, nutritional information and deals. Those considerations should also be extended to search and social media efforts.