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The Impact of Tabletop Tablets in Restaurants

by Justin Bomberowitz, Wednesday, Dec 18, 2013

In early December, restaurant chain, Applebee’s, announced the installation of 100,000 tabletop tablets throughout its store-base beginning in early 2014. Applebee’s is partnering with a technology provider, E La Carte, makers of the Presto Tablet, for a nationwide installation. This is the biggest step E La Carte has taken in its path to bring the technology to several restaurants nationwide. Here is how tablet technology will change the restaurant industry in the next few years as it makes its way into more chains for everyday use.

Evolving Technology Trends in Restaurants  

E La Carte has spent four years building both the hardware (the Presto tablet itself) along with the software, which enables consumers to order and pay from their table. E La Carte is not the only player in the restaurant tablet space, but is currently one of the most mature capabilities as far as deployment and production are concerned inside a restaurant. Other Point-of-Sale tablets include LAVU Inc., Square, Revel Systems, and Hummingbird POS.

The technology brings a restaurant the potential for faster table turnaround, automatic upsell opportunities, entertainment between ordering and payment and more to come with the advancement of this technology.

Increased Sales

With a tablet on every table, consumers can scroll through a menu, customizing their order as they go. Similar to recommendation engines online, the tablets will serve up additional items on the menu that match the initial entries into the system for up-sell opportunities. Early tests indicate that average bill size from a Presto tablet-run table is up (on average 10%) over traditional ordering methods. In many cases, tablets are not implemented on every table, which means overall same store sales (SSS) in the restaurant aren’t up 10% but a percentage of that total increase.

Operational Efficiency

The consumer controls the ability to both order and pay, which has in turn, increased the turnaround time at tables (25% of the time to pay, on average) and improved staff efficiency. This, in the end, allows a restaurant to serve more customers throughout any given day.

E La Carte has reported minimal shrink of the actual tablet. It’s a durable design that doesn’t have the sleekness of a consumer-facing tablet such as an iPad. Restaurants pay a monthly charge per tablet with usually no installation fee.

Finally, when it comes to operational efficiency, some restaurants have reduced the number of wait staff because of the tabletop tablets. This is an important factor with the potential for minimum wage to increase over time.

Increased Consumer Engagement

Between ordering and paying, consumers have access to content and social channels for entertainment purposes. This is a key opportunity for either retailers or brands to engage the consumer.  Test companies have already reported positive results on the collection of email accounts for content marketing purposes in the future.

What’s Next for Restaurant Tablet Technology?

This is just the beginning for this type of technology, which will help streamline the operational process and act as an entertainment hub for an individual table for restaurant guests.

In 2014, look for tablet technology to focus on improving the ordering and payment experience. They will begin to offer coupons and promotions and an overall better experience to place an order at the onset of a dining experience.

The time between ordering and payment will also see a vast improvement. The ability to stream video, serve content, surf the web or interact on social channels is endless. Look for these devices and restaurants to beginning partnering with publishers, brands and media companies to provide more entertainment to the end user.

Finally, the interconnectedness of devices will proliferate in 2014. The Presto tablet or any restaurant tablet does not have to be a standalone technology. It can link to a consumer’s smart phone, personal tablet or other device for a seamless experience.

The Applebee’s announcement is one of the biggest steps the restaurant industry has taken in integrating consumer technology at the table. 2014 will be a year with significant change for the industry and it will focus on a better operational experience for the restaurant and dining experience for the consumer.