A new online survey has revealed that spontaneity, automation and veganism are the three key drivers that UK millennials believe will shape the future restaurant sector.

Sponsored by workforce collaboration software company Planday, the survey was conducted last month by YouGov. Around 2,008 individuals took part in the survey, with half of the sample in the 20 to 35 and 36 to 51 age groups, classified as millennials and Generation X, respectively.

According to the survey’s results, the prevailing trend among millennials is home delivery orders, with 20% of millennials saying that they visit restaurants less frequently due to increasing food delivery options.

The report highlighted that this poses a challenge to restaurants in forecasting demand and requires them to tweak their service strategy to capitalise on the growing popularity of home delivery orders.

The decline in footfalls at restaurants represents a shift of business worth around £1bn per year towards food delivery.

“In order to stay competitive and profitable, restaurants need to listen to changing consumer preferences and use the available technologies.”

Another key driver of the restaurant sector is automation. The survey indicated that around 71% of millennials are ready to make the switch to some restaurant services offering delivery by robots.

Around 52% of millennials said that they would prefer restaurants that use automation to take orders and process payments, in comparison to only 39% of Gen X diners.

However, more than half of millennials would still choose human interaction over a machine in their dining experiences while giving a compliment or registering a complaint.

The survey results pointed to evolving consumer tastes as millennials see plant-based foods gaining wider acceptance and becoming a preferred choice over fast foods. Nearly half of all the millennials surveyed (49%) predict vegan restaurants will have the highest demand in the next two years.

Planday chief commercial officer John Coldicutt said: “The UK restaurant sector has seen multiple high-profile closures in the last 12 months, as well-established chains struggle to correctly predict and match market demand. This survey gives us insight into the complex and changing consumer expectations, from younger to older diners, contributing to this challenging environment.

“We know from our own customer base that things are only likely to get less predictable as just under two thirds (63%) of our customers who are restaurant managers expect the percentage of food orders from online delivery services to increase over the next year.

“In order to stay competitive and profitable, restaurants need to listen to changing consumer preferences and use the available technologies to cater to an increasingly unpredictable environment.”