You sit down to the table at a restaurant. You scroll through the menu on a touchscreen tablet. You key in your order, page your waiter when needed, and pay when ready to go. This is the service model of the future, at least in the eyes of many tablet-ordering companies popping up this year. Starting out in the bar and nightlife industry, this tableside ordering technology has made its way to the restaurant and foodservice arena with a glimpse of 21st century digital dining.
Floored! stopped by the eTab booth #5656 to get a demo of the tablet.
Propped up by a sleek black stand the mid-sized tablet uses photos, nutritional information and other added descriptors to showcase various menu items, expanding on simple print menus. On the back end, managers can also use stored ordering information to find out how their menu items are selling, and to track inventory. The tablet ordering system also saves servers the extra step of having to first take orders by hand, then key in selections at a POS.
“You get total control of the menu and ordering,” Terry Bader, vice president of marketing and strategy, said at the booth. Initial reports have also shown both beverage and total restaurant sales have improved among restaurants – namely fast casual chains – using the tablet system. But will the tablets make servers, real people obsolete?
In fact, Bader said, service has improved and tips have gone up. “People get what they want, when they want it – they can talk to the server when needed and the server will leave them alone the rest of the time,” Bader said.
The tablet system may not make great servers better, but it helps poor servers get up to speed, and cuts down the hardships of training restaurant staff, which tends to have super fast turnover, he added.
Costs for the leased tablets run a flat $400 a month. If a tablet breaks or malfunctions, managers can order new ones in a “Netflix” way – sending the old one back in the box it came in.
Other ordering tablets represented at the show:
DeNorma (Booth #6072)
An integrated hardware and software system, DeNorma®’s Smart Electronic Menu allows diners to place orders, change orders mid-meal and pay tableside as well as search through menu items for certain foods like seafood, find out what’s gluten-free, or put together a customized, healthier meal using nutritional information. Managers can also use the tablet’s software system to remotely manage their operation from anywhere.
Hubworks Interactive (Booth #2808)
First popular in the nightclub industry, the tablets have a social media function, allowing users to connect with others in the same spot and order drinks for each other aside from tableside ordering and paying functionality.