Why restaurants are adding tablets to the tables

Applebee's is the latest chain to install the technology, which lets customers order food, pay the bill and even play video games.

By InvestorPlace Dec 4, 2013 3:01PM

Applebee's restaurant in Elgin, Illinois (© Scott Olson/Getty Images)
 By Karl Utermohlen


DineEquity (DIN) subsidiary Applebee's is making life easier for its customers by installing tablets on tables in all of its U.S. locations.


The restaurant chain is adding 100,000 tablets around the country in its 1,860 restaurants, according to Businessweek.


The devices will help customers customize their orders and pay the check, and even let them play video games while they're waiting. However, the chain is not planning on replacing any of its staff for tablets -- it is simply creating a digital front for consumers to have a more enjoyable Applebee’s experience.


"Every restaurant has a stove, every restaurant has a fryer," DineEquity senior vice president Jay Johns told Businessweek. "That doesn’t mean every restaurant is the same. It’s what you do with it."

Johns added that the device's presence in the restaurant could become as important to the Applebee’s package as its signature appetizers.


Johns said the chain hired a startup named E La Carte to build the devices which run on the Android operating system. The company is a Y Combinator offspring, and Intel (INTC) is a major investor.


Applebee’s isn’t the first chain to introduce tablets to its restaurants as Chili’s -- owned by Brinker International (EAT) -- started doing so earlier this year, and Buffalo Wild Wings (BWLD) has been testing in-store tablets as well.


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52Comments
Dec 4, 2013 4:26PM
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Tablets at the dinner table...no no no!!  Meal time is no time for tablets and cell phones!
Dec 4, 2013 4:37PM
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Taking the order and bringing the check is the job of the waiter/waitress.  Are we supposed to tip them the usual just for bringing us food and drinks that WE ordered?  I think not.
Dec 4, 2013 4:32PM
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Man so all those people striking for $15.00 which is ridiculous are worried about that instead of being replaced by tablets??? see the irony??? in this

And i completely doubt the below statement 
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However, the chain is not planning on replacing any of its staff for tablets -- it is simply creating a digital front for consumers to have a more enjoyable Applebee’s experience.
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Dec 4, 2013 4:59PM
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I did this once. Completely unaware that the waitress could add her own tip of 40%. For a simple 30.00 dollar meal. If I ever see one in a restaurant again. I will run not walk out of the restaurant. Our waitress did nothing but bring us our meals and drink.  I use to be a waitress. I use to make my customers feel welcome and a light conversations. I made great tips and got the customers what they wanted without complaining.
Dec 4, 2013 6:16PM
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Tablets at restaurants - just when we thought it wasn't possible to remove any more interpersonal communication, someone found a way.  God forbid you sit down at a restaurant and engage in friendly banter with the waiter/waitress.  God forbid you should sit down at meal time and talk with your family about current events, what happened at school/work that day, etc...
Dec 4, 2013 4:20PM
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What if I want a fork, what if I want a napkin, what if the food is not edible, which it isn't at Appleby's.
Dec 4, 2013 4:28PM
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Won't use this.  The staff adds to the meal especially places that I go to often.  Usually great people.
Dec 4, 2013 4:46PM
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its rediculious put people to work .not the electronic stuff,,and all wonder why people dont have jobs
Dec 4, 2013 6:59PM
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how stupid...first we had radios and TVs but we still had family dinner time over the decades..then came the iphones, ps3's, and texters that ruined family time..now we got family " outings " ruined too by this..i thought you went out to dinner to have a good time and talk, socialize...looks like the gov. is doing a good job tracking everyone all over and controlling the masses with tech.!! and 99% of you mormons with the phones are the the sheep!
Dec 4, 2013 4:56PM
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The Jack In The Box in my neighborhood was recently remodeled even though it's only been there less than 10 years. In doing so, they removed a couple of counter cash registers and installed a self service order kiosk. Now, unless it's extremely busy, they don't bother to staff the counter and instead direct customer's to the kiosk for ordering. The downfall of the kiosk though is, at least the last time I used it, that it doesn't allow for customizing your order such as wanting no onions or extra pickles et etc. on your burger. So much for needing fast food workers who want to be paid $15 an hour and are about to supposedly have a nationwide strike. More jobs gone due to technology.
Dec 4, 2013 7:26PM
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Will not use .....................
Dec 4, 2013 9:05PM
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No, please!  I come to a restaurant to be waited on.  I don't want to order my own meal on a tablet. I don't want to pay with a tablet.  I want service.  And an attentive waiter.   Also , If I wanted to play games I would stay home. 
Dec 4, 2013 6:21PM
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         WELL   APPLEBEES   LOST    ABOUT    27  OF  US   ADD   JOBS   DONT   CUT   THEM
Dec 4, 2013 7:00PM
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Well, we don't go to Chilis anymore because of the  ""TABLEts''''  and now we wont be going to Applebee's,   If Red lobster/olive tree add them,,, we wont be going to them either,   Next will be some mechanical voice over a loud speaker tell us by table number YOUR ORDER IS READY,,,  then I suppose it will  be please place dirty dishes/silverware/glass war on conveyer belt,,,,   one thing I can say,,, sure will save money on tips. 


AND THE WORKERS ARE STRIKING FOR 15.00 A HOUR,,,,,, YEAH RIGHT

Dec 4, 2013 4:58PM
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This is already done at a restaurant called Stacked in San Diego, CA. You get seated by a hostess and you still have a waiter/waitress. The menu is fully customizable, which was great cause my father due to his health is on a strict diet and he was able to put in specifically how his food needed to be prepared. The waitress that we had came to bring our order and would still come around to check on us if we needed refills or to see how we were doing with our meal. The iPad even had a call button if you like in an airplane if you needed the waitress at your table. The restaurant was fully staffed, they weren't running on a skeleton crew. We paid through the iPad with a credit card or if you're paying cash then you choose that option so the waitress can come and get your money to pay your tab. There wasn't a huge difference to our dining experience because of a tablet as opposed to conventional restaurants, but we did have our food come out exactly like we asked for which is hit or miss at regular restaurants.  
Dec 4, 2013 5:42PM
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An Applebee's in my s. Calif. hometown is packed solid after 5pm for happy hour.  I guess pleasant company and honest cocktails at a good price are not enough for patrons.  More gizmos to fool with.  
Dec 4, 2013 5:16PM
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Raising the minimum wage to over what it is at present, will only raise the unemployment level of the area that has so unintelligently raised the hourly wage.   And as far as the tablets, like a lot of tech, it may seem good for a time, but in time it will hurt the human experience.
Dec 5, 2013 1:42AM
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Go ahead, push harder for those $15 dollar an hour servers, mandatory tips etc. and see what it gets you. Technology is now master of our domain, has it really been worth it..
Dec 5, 2013 2:46AM
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It's all about reducing staff.  In the next few years all of these chains will offer their food, cafeteria style in order to eliminate most staff.
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