Applebees Tablet

Chili’s has already started using tablets in its restaurants.

Tablets are an increasingly popular tool for work, communication, games, and even education.

But now the restaurant industry gives the term “self-serving” a whole new meaning as tablets become a part of the dining-out scene.

Tablets: Changing the Restaurant Experience. 

Applebees, America’s largest dining chain, has announced that they will have tablets on every table by the end of 2014. The tablets will enable customers to order appetizers and desserts, and process their bills without having to communicate with a human server.

The restaurant says that menus will still be given at the beginning of meals, and wait staff will continue to take orders and serve food. The tablets, they say, will be on the tables for the sake of customer convenience.

That convenience could result in a major bump in sales for the company. For example: suddenly realize that you need Onion Rings to go with that burger? Or, did you feel that splitting a dessert with your dining partner didn’t quite satisfy? No problem. Just tap the tablet’s ordering icons a few times and more food is on its way. Don’t want to wait for your check once the meal is finished? Tap the tablet and your bill will be available.

Applebees sees opportunity in this tech strategy.  But the chain is no doubt also responding to Chili’s–their primary competitor–since that company has already begun installing tablets at its restaurants. IHOP has announced that it is considering integrating tablets into its dining service.

Impacting the Dining Service Industry: Winners and Losers?

Companies like E la Carte, the tablet company that Applebees has signed on with, maintain that tablets will make the dining experience better for everyone involved. E la Carte says that access to tablets will put control in the diner’s hands and make the eating-out experience much faster and more responsive.

Getting customers closer to instant gratification is a plus for the restaurant owner because impulse  buys will now be right at the customer’s fingertips. Faster ordering and serving means that diners will finish their meals sooner, and the table can be turned over more quickly to new customers.

Other advantages for the owner: if the customer inputs a request then the wait staff can’t be accused of serving the wrong order. And certainly the restaurant will be able to track customer ordering patterns in even more detail. Having video games available could generate additional revenue.

On the other hand, easy access to more ordering may mean not only more food for the customer, but also more calories…and a higher bill.

And as customers become more comfortable with the self-service ordering approach there’s no doubt that over time the role of the waiter or waitress will change. “Server” has become the go-to gender-neutral term used for this role. Now that term will be more accurate than ever. While there will likely be someone on a restaurant’s staff to make recommendations or answer customer questions, it’s easy to envision that the primary job of the server–at least at more popular, chain restaurants — will be to deliver food and then clean it up.

Here’s a promo by E la Carte touting the advantages of “tablet-enhanced” dining over the more “traditional” restaurant experience:



Tablets and computers are changing businesses everywhere.

For help on how you can use technology to expand your business, contact Bergen IT today.

Phone: 201-689-1823