The restaurant industry is starting to embrace tablets to not only to provide digital menus, but also entertainment, reading and the ability to pay your bills. Many start ups and established players are trying to take advantage of the billion dollar US industry.
Silicon Valley-based E la Carte scored a big win last year when it signed an agreement with Applebees to provide 100,000 tableside tablets. Customers can use the Android-based devices to browse and add items to a cart, as if they were online shopping, and then pay their bill when the meal is over. In November the company negotiated a deal with 200 U.S. Johnny Rockets locations. One of the interesting things about this deal was not only can customers pay from the tablets, but replace the original tabletop jukeboxes with the new digital solution. During the pilot with Rockets, the restaurants saw an 11.2% improvement in table turn time – one of the key factors restaurants are looking at when considering a tablet investment.
Chili’s Grill & Bar have also embraced tablets provided by Dallas company called Ziosk. The restaurant chain was so happy with their trial at 180 locations last year that they have implemented 48,000 tablets at most of its 1,266 U.S. restaurants. Ziosk says that their terminals can boost impulse orders at the start of the meal by 20%—especially when photos of appetizers are streaming across monitors. They are also boosting dessert sales with vibrant pictures of molten chocolate cake and other sweets pop up while diners are still on the main course. Dessert sales are up about 20% at Chili’s and customers are ordering more coffee, too.
Tablets in restaurants are going far beyond allowing people to order digitally and to get a visual indication on the menu items. They are starting to provide the ability to keep small children occupied with all of the games they want to play for .99 or keeping solitary individuals with reading solutions.
One of the quintessential activities at a restaurant is to read the local paper. Keeping yourself abreast of the latest local news, is important, but many locations have suspended carrying the local paper due to the sheer amount of people bringing in their own e-readers, smartphones or tablets. Vancouver based PressReader has developed a two prong solution, one retro and one fairly modern. The one I really like is a print on demand service that will allow restaurants to order any of PressReaders 3,000+ newspapers and have them delivered every day. This is a cost effective solution if they want to carry international editions such as the Washington Post, Business Traveler, South China Morning Post and Le Monde. The more modern service is hooking locations up with a wireless hotspot, giving customers access to thousands of newspapers that they can access on their own devices.
One of the exciting things about the PressReader solution is that people who love reading the paper on their lunch break don’t actually have to subscribe to the print or digital edition. As long as they are visiting a restaurant with an active PressReader subscription, it adds extra value.
Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past ten years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times.