Tabletop tablets in chain restaurants

Brian Lutz
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Tabletop tablets in chain restaurants

Post by Brian Lutz » November 18th, 2015, 11:51 am

Over the past few months, I've noticed that a number of chain restaurants around here have started placing tablets from a company called Ziosk at each table. Applebee's was the first place I saw one of these, but just recently they showed up at the local Red Robin as well, and it appears that Chili's and Olive Garden are now using them at all locations as well. It seems that different restaurants are using the tablets in somewhat different fashion (for example, Red Robin seems to only let customers place drink/appetizer/dessert orders from it where other places let people make their entire order from there) but the tablet also allows people to split checks themselves and swipe their cards at the table, and also simplifies things like loyalty programs. There are also a number of games loaded on the tablets that can be accessed for a fee of $1.99, which might be useful for keeping the kids amused.

To be honest, I'm not sure what I really think of these. On one hand, they do seem useful and definitely simplify paying for things. On the other hand, they do take up a lot of table space, especially on smaller tables where the condiments may already be taking up a good chunk of space. Apparently it seems to be resulting in less work and better tips for waiters and waitresses as well, but ultimately I suspect it'll result in less jobs overall for them. I'm guessing we'll be seeing a lot more of these as $15 minimum wages start setting in...

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Re: Tabletop tablets in chain restaurants

Post by Super S » November 19th, 2015, 10:14 am

The only advantage I really see is that restaurants would not have to provide new paper menus. But I wouldn't pay to use them. Gotta wonder how many times they get handled while eating, and how few times they get wiped down between customers. A lot of restaurants where I live have a difficult time these days keeping tables clean as it is.

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Re: Tabletop tablets in chain restaurants

Post by storewanderer » November 20th, 2015, 10:42 pm

I am afraid these tablets make up for poor service. I've only been to one restaurant with these in the past year, a Chili's. As we sat there waiting for the check, we realized we might be able to pay using the tablet so we decided to try it. Nobody told us how it worked or anything. So we were able to use the tablet to pay and save time and get out of there after a too salty meal and get on with our day. I guess I am not really a big fan of these chain restaurants in general.

However, I am a believer in self ordering kiosks in fast food restaurants. But the Carl's Jr. and Jack in the Box locations I saw that had these kiosks have removed them so I guess it did not work out so well.

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Re: Tabletop tablets in chain restaurants

Post by Alpha8472 » November 22nd, 2015, 2:16 pm

The Jack In The Box kiosks were notorious for breaking down. I have seen them broken many times. The problem is that they needed to be restocked with change and emptied of money, which probably took a lot of time and trouble. They were very unreliable.

Also, the kiosk does not upsell to a customer. The cashier is supposed to upsell to a customer and push fries, drinks, and more food items. They probably figured out that they were losing out on sales since there was less upsell for those using kiosks.

I tried the kiosks on many occasions and found it to be ok, but if it jams and the change doesn't come out it is a mess.

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Re: Tabletop tablets in chain restaurants

Post by Super S » September 10th, 2019, 7:11 pm

I will admit that I do not eat dinner at chain restaurants very often and have just now for the first time encountered one of these at my local Red Lobster a few days ago. The tablet was not used for ordering, a waitress did that as usual, and they still had regular menus. I did see a few ads for various drinks/desserts, and ads to play games (not sure if they were free or cost money). I actually found the thing distracting and turned it away from me while I ate (I was by myself). Toward the end the waitress displayed the check on the screen, but it timed out and I could not figure out how to get it to come back, but the waitress was at least helpful in using it. I decided to pay at the table, and it was quick and easy. But I feel that the tablet as a whole was distracting and there should be an option to turn the brightness down or off while eating. I did hear a fully occupied booth nearby commenting about how "stupid" it was and how much space it took up on the table.

I really wonder about having games available in a day and age where most people have smartphones and likely use them at the table anyway, much like the argument some airlines make for removing their in-flight entertainment. The game aspect seemed out of place in a Red Lobster though.

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Re: Tabletop tablets in chain restaurants

Post by cjd » September 10th, 2019, 8:21 pm

I don't remember when I first started seeing these, but I remember it did seem they took a lot of space. So far I have seen these at Chilis and Olive Garden. I don't believe I have seen any at Outback Steakhouse or Red Lobster, but I don't go to them very often.

On the ads on the screen I was just thinking at the last time I ate at one of these places how distracting it is. The games do cost money to play and I guess they figured it would bring in extra money for families with kids. I can't imagine anyone uses the games though, like you say most people would already have tablets of phones if they were going to let the kids play games to keep them occupied.

As of yet, I've only used these for paying for orders. We haven't been to any place yet that encouraged us to order anything on them, the waitstaff has still handled that.

As for the kiosks at fast food places, I will use them if there is no one at the counter when I ordered. I don't care for how McDonald's handles theirs here though. They claim you take the number tent and then someone will bring your order - except that never happens. The first time I used one, I went to the table and waited quite some time and order never came, and never heard it called. Went to the counter and it was there. Next time thought maybe just that time, but same thing. Also they tend to not have drinks ready when using it. Tried the one at Taco Bell for first time last month, and they already had my cup before I had finished the order! They seem on top of it better there.

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Re: Tabletop tablets in chain restaurants

Post by Brian Lutz » September 11th, 2019, 1:51 pm

My guess is that the on-tablet games are probably aimed at two groups: Kids whose parents are trying to get them to settle down, and people who have been drinking and might be more inclined to make the impulse purchase.

As for the tablets, I have yet to see them anywhere besides Applebee's and Red Robin, although I have heard of Olive Garden using them here as well. At Red Robin they do have the ability to order appetizers and drinks on the tablets but not regular food. It does also save time at the end of the meal when you pay, and lets you split checks yourself. We also tend to just face the screen of the tablet away from the table when it's not in use though.

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Re: Tabletop tablets in chain restaurants

Post by rwsandiego » September 11th, 2019, 8:13 pm

I've seen the tablets at Chili's and Outback. At Chili's, I ordered from the server but when it came time to pay he directed me to the tablet. I tried looking at the menu on the tablet but the screens were poorly-designed so I used the printed menu. At Outback, the server took my order and handled payment.

There's a small chain in SoCal called Stacked where you order, summon a server, ask for extras, and pay on an iPad at the table. I ate there for the novelty. The food was tasty and you can customize just about anything.

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Re: Tabletop tablets in chain restaurants

Post by storewanderer » September 11th, 2019, 8:52 pm

I'd like to see these somehow built into the table like a flip up/flip down type arrangement. As in, if you are a group of 4 at a booth and need the space you can fold the thing down and get it out of the way so you don't lose space. Then once they come clear plates away you can flip it back up to do the payment. These things work great for split checks and also for allowing you to pay the check and exit the restaurant quickly. It also eliminates the server taking your card away and out of your sight to process, which is something that frequently causes theft of card numbers to take place.

Or, you have kids at the table and don't want them messing with the thing and adding 99 cent games to the tab. You flip it down and away and out of the way.

Or you are trying to discuss something serious at the table and don't want the distraction...

I like the pay at table concept but could do without the marketing aspect of these things.

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Re: Tabletop tablets in chain restaurants

Post by Alpha8472 » September 12th, 2019, 12:01 pm

The kiosks should be able to be integrated into the tables. They should be thin tablets that could fold down flat and disappear into the tables. However, the Ziosk company probably makes their money off of ads and they want the screens to display at all times.

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