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Digital Dining

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(WFLX) - When it comes to dining out, in 2014, you might be interacting more with your smartphone than your server at your favorite restaurant!

From how you check in to how you place your order and even pay, the entire dining experience is going high tech.

Ryan Moore is a fan of places that put technology to work, and when he eats out, he loves the convenience that comes with being able to place his order on a tablet. "I want to make things faster and easier for me."

Now, 'digital dining' goes way beyond tablets at the table. "A lot of us are finding now that we're being invited more and more to download apps onto our own smartphones to check our table wait times, to settle up our check, or even in some cases to order," said Brian Westbrook, a digital consultant.

Apps do everything from give you reward points or discounts for being a repeat customer to allowing you to pay without ever getting a paper check or swiping your credit card

While diners may love the convenience, "If I don't have to wave down a server or a waiter to come over and take my credit card, that's a much faster experience and a better customer experience for me," said Brandon Hull a restaurant consultant with NextRestaurants.com.

Hull says owners use technology for marketing and research gathering information about you. "They have details on your favorite food, your favorite drink, the frequency that you're coming by."

But not everyone is biting when it comes to this new technology. Gathering information on customers doesn't always sit well with diners who prefer privacy. "Sometimes, there can be too much digital interaction. You can be buried in your smartphone at a restaurant. It's not a bad idea just to turn that phone off and enjoy the company you're with -- enjoy the fine meal," said Westbrook.

And what about payment errors or the security of your credit card information when it's stored in an app?

Some argue the technology is an improvement. "It's much safer than handing a person your credit card and watching them walk off in the distance," said Hull. "Having a digital dining app used for ordering, reserving a table, or dividing up the check adds more data to the equation. So there's more opportunity to reconstruct what may have happened if there's any disputes or errors."

Ultimately, Hull says, digital dining is expected to improve the customer experience and will become much more prevalent in 2014. "That's the future. That's where we're going with this, and they need to embrace that."

Westbrook added, "Stick with apps recommended by a trusted restaurant."

He also recommends you keep an eye on your credit card statements if you use dining apps that store your payment information to be sure the amount you are charged by the restaurant matches what you actually ordered.

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