RetailMeNot, Inc., Austin, Texas, released a new study titled "The Evolution of Dining in the Digital Age," which explores digital savings and mobile habits among restaurant patrons, as well as general habits related to dining out and spending.

More than ever before, consumers are turning to their digital devices to help make dining out decisions easier, including searching for nearby locations and deals. In fact, nearly a third of consumers (32%) have used a deal that they found online or on their mobile device at a restaurant in the past three months. But, that's not all. The survey breaks down when, where and how their mobile devices impact the dining journey.      

Mobile makes its way to the food and dining scene
Convenience is a major factor for today's mobile consumer, and figuring out where to dine is no exception. Of the diners surveyed, one in four currently has at least one restaurant-specific mobile app on his/her smartphone. That number increases significantly the more diners eat out. Among people who dine out 8-10 times a week, more than two-thirds (68%) use a restaurant-specific mobile app.

Consumers rely on their mobile devices for a variety of restaurant-related research prior to dining out. Topping the list is finding a restaurant location (53%), browsing a menu (49%) and researching new restaurants (37%). Not surprisingly, younger consumers rely on mobile the most. Consumers aged 25-34 are more likely to research new restaurants on their smartphone (60%) than any other age group.

Mobile device usage doesn't stop once they are in a restaurant either. Nearly two-thirds of diners will use their smartphones for a variety of tasks while dining in a restaurant. This includes taking a photo (32%), checking in on social media (19%) and searching for online deals (19%). Other tasks include browsing reviews (17%), looking up nutritional information (16%) and paying for a meal via mobile (8%).

"As consumers are increasingly turning to their mobile devices for help with their dining choices, it is imperative that restaurants market to diners via mobile," says Marissa Tarleton, chief marketing officer, North America. "Mobile marketing technology is a powerful medium when it comes to serving up the right dining content, in the right location, at the right time. When done well, mobile has the ability to drive more diners through their doors and keep them coming back for more."

Diners love a good deal
A whopping nine out of 10 customers have looked for a restaurant deal at least once.

Additionally, 81% search for deals on a regular basis (13% search every time, 30% search most of the time and 38% search sometimes). Interestingly, high earners use online or mobile restaurant deals the most—46% of diners who earn $150,000 or more per year have used an online or mobile coupon at a restaurant in the past three months. Furthermore, deals drive consumers to explore restaurants that they may not have known otherwise; in fact, 80% are likely to try a new restaurant if it is offering a promotion.

The survey also concluded that differences lie among various age and location demographics. Among people in urban areas, those aged 45-54 responded that "yes," they have used a deal found online or their smartphone, more than any other age group. However, in suburban areas, Millennials (aged 25-34) use deals found online or their smartphone the most.

About the survey
The purpose of this research is to collect insight from consumers aged 18 to 65-plus on their food and dining habits. Results are based on two surveys conducted using Google Consumer Surveys between March 22-April 6. The surveys are based on a sample of the U.S. adult Internet population. A survey about digital and mobile coupon usage at restaurants reached 1,001 respondents. A survey about general dining out habits reached 1,032 respondents. Percentages may not total 100 due to rounding.