HealthyEatingOutIt is no longer the daily specials and deliveries that a restaurant owner needs to focus on these days.

The chatter at many of the restaurant conferences and the subject of many webinars in the last year has been how to leverage technology to make diners happier.

Understandably, the larger restaurant chains have been very busy behind the scenes trying to design ways to help their diners get in and out faster and, as importantly, keep them coming back.

Here are our the 5 innovations we see as having the biggest impact this year:

Placing Your Order On The Go

While some chains are just getting started in this space, others are already cooking from mobile orders. In fact, Pizza Hut gets half its orders online and Taco Bell is getting ready to release their mobile ordering app.

Forget The Waiter

Chili’s and Applebee’s are among the restaurants adding tableside tablets that allow diners to place their own orders. The next logical step is to then pay for the order at the table as well. This is a very popular option considering that increasing card-number thefts being perpetrated.

Virtual Loyalty Cards

With the rise of virtual wallets such as Apple Passbook and Google Wallet, loyalty cards are going virtual as well. These discount-tracking apps make it easy for the diner to redeem and even easier for them to share the rewards with friends on social media.

8909996_600x338Dinner Theater?

“Eatertainment” will be the new buzz word for restaurants. Restaurants are increasingly providing phone-based games to keep you entertained while waiting for your lunch. Dining establishments big and small are also using gamification to keep their brand top of mind even when the diner is not in their restaurant. Chipotle has a smartphone app called Scarecrow game that encourages their brand as well as their pro-sustainable farming philosophy.

Ordering In

Don’t want to get out of your jammies? There continues to be a surge in food delivery apps that are more than city-specific. Apps like GrubHub, DoorDash and The HungerApp give you many restaurant options in over 1,000 U.S. cities.

Does your favourite restaurant have an app? Let us know in the comments!