6/12/2012 3:09 PM ET|
Will touch screens replace waiters?
More restaurants are using table-top devices to let diners order food, pay their bill – even play games.
The appetizer order is taken promptly. The check is presented and processed the moment you are ready to pay. The children are entertained throughout the meal. But it isn't the waiter you have to thank for this efficient dining experience.
A growing number of restaurants -- including Chili's Grill & Bar, Applebee's and Chevys Fresh Mex -- are using or testing small, interactive computer screens at the table. Diners can see glossy pictures of food, order menu items and pay a check without a waiter.
Some of the devices also offer video games, often for a fee, movie trailers and news articles. Some have advertising; many plan to add it. Device makers hope to charge liquor companies for ads and retailers for coupons.
For couples and families, restaurant meals -- once a place for leisurely conversation -- have become just another time to be glued to email and games. "Restaurants are faced with either being outside of that communication and just allowing it all to take place on guests' phones, or they can be part of that," says Austen Mulinder, the president and chief executive of TableTop Media, which makes the Ziosk, a device that lets diners order, pay and play games. Chili's franchisees are using the Ziosk in more than 100 restaurants. Applebee's is testing it.
The technologies promise to address a longstanding complaint of diners: Paying the bill is a hassle. "When you are ready, that five minutes waiting for the credit-card transaction feels like 20," says Jay Johns, the vice president of strategy implementation at Applebee's. Since late last year, Applebee's has tested three types of screens -- the Ziosk, Presto, and eTab -- at 13 restaurants across the U.S. The devices let diners swipe their credit card at the table and email themselves a receipt. Some print a receipt at the table.
The entertainment features have been a hit, says Don Schuck, the director of information technology for the U.S. division of AmRest, a franchisee that owns 102 Applebee's restaurants in the U.S. and is planning to test three of the devices in its Columbus, Ga., locations. Initially, he says, "We thought, 'Who is going to want to do that?' Surprisingly, quite a few." Some restaurants charge a fee, usually about $1, to use games. Diners have the option of removing the free-standing devices, restaurants say. Seven out of 10 diners at a table with the Ziosk choose to use it, the company says, adding that Ziosk is in hundreds of restaurants.
During monthly visits to her local Chili's, Kimberly Nasief-Westergren turns the Ziosk screen away from her 11-month-old son and 3-year-old daughter. "We want to engage her in a conversation," says the 38-year-old president of a consumer research firm who lives in Louisville, Ky. Her son is drawn in by "the flashing lights. He wants to grab at it and put it in his mouth," she says. That said, she says she's interested in the idea of paying her bill with the screen.
"The only difficulty is the kids fighting over it," Lynn Mahoney says of the Ziosk device at her local Uno Chicago Grill. The 43-year-old, who operates a coupon blog from Wrentham, Mass., says her three children play games on the machine while waiting for food, then put it away. The adults "get a couple of minutes to talk without them saying, 'Mommy, Mommy, Mommy.'"
Casual dining chains are the main target for these devices. Some higher-end restaurants use iPads to show menus or wine lists. Most device makers charge restaurants a monthly fee.
So far, even most middle-tier restaurants have resisted letting people order everything on the menu from a machine because they want to preserve the personalized service that diners get from interacting with waiters. Instead, they are focusing on high-margin items such as drinks and desserts.
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Sometim es I wonder about people like T R Rose in this country. He should have gone to Russia or China.
We wer e the only country in the world to be so rich because of the rich people.
You ever get a job from a poor person ?????
Wake up and do some better figuring.
Another machine to replace a human in the name of profit. As a waiter... I am expressly opposed to this. It will take away my part-time income/job and tip percentage... if it catches on.
You would not feel any guilt if you stiffed a machine or leave a low tip that does not cover the bar tender/expeditor/busser/my tip/taxes.
Only thing I can hope for is the fact that people come to the restaurant for the food and the experience and tell the restaurant it’s a bad idea.
Or, when people walk out and leave that little screen blinking for payment. I bet whoever is in charge of ensuring payment will have to fit the bill for the company. I know I was responsible for walkouts. After a 90 dollar check walks out the door and you have to pay for it. You will understand why this is a bad idea. But, profit trumps everything these days.
We were basically ignored, the hours for lunch were not correctly posted both online and at the restaurant, so we ended up waiting for at least 1/2 hour just to get served, and, as most restaurants do, we were stuck near the waitress area/kitchen...this was our first time, so the sign that tol...d us to sign in first was blocked by another customer and a large crowd that came in behind us, was taken care of first since they knew what to do...
We were told about this place b/c of a recommendation re: the great food; however, service was horrible...we will not be returning and we were hoping for a nice change from our usual fast food places when we are in Mt Vernon...
People not in wheelchairs and came in after us, recieved great care by their server while we were basically ignored and they were seated in nicer places....of course, they also should tell their wait staff not to whisper about their customers and become rude when we speak up about having to wait...not very friendly at all...
People talk about the LOSS of jobs, well what about the creation of jobs? Somebody has to produce these touch screens, someone has to install them at restaurants, somone needs to maintain them. So it is really a trade-off of one low-skill, low-paying job for another.
Love it, you can now get what you ask for. No more "I'm sorry, I forgot to tell the chef. Waiter will still be needed, they just want be able to screw up you order.
I'm not the most social person in the world but to me this is asinine. Most of these restaurants offer some kind of take-out. Why anyone would want to go out and have a sit-down meal so that they can interact as little as possible and have their kids buried in some video game is beyond me.
Everyone, including myself, likes to be waited on by a pretty women, NOT BY A CORRUPT REPUBLICAN CORPORATE CAPITALISTIC GADGET!
When is this corruption going to end! You're stealing from the SAME PEOPLE that made you successful IN THE FIRST PLACE! To hell with your STOCKHOLDERS & CEO'S! It's time to give back! You & you alone are the reason we are in an economic collapse!
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