Strategic CIO // IT Strategy
Commentary
6/11/2014
09:35 AM
David Wagner
David Wagner
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Restaurants' Switch To Tablets Is Trouble

Tablets and self-service are the next big thing in restaurants. But is it a good idea?

Casual dining restaurants, including Chili's and Applebee's, will be rolling out new self-service kiosks using tablets in the next few months. The tablets will allow customers to order food, call their servers, and pay their checks without needing to interact with a human.

Preliminary tests show that such kiosks will improve revenue and table turnover while increasing customer satisfaction. But past experience with such kiosks in other industries is mixed, and restaurants should beware. Putting aside that it seems as if all this does is turn table service into fast food, CIOs looking to jump into this technology need to follow some rules to avoid major mistakes.

Before we talk about it, here is a home video of the menus in action:

As you can see, the tablets are interactive menus making use of a lot of images (though no video yet) to entice buyers into appetizers, drinks, and other "upsell" items. In addition, the tablets feature entertainment and a way to pay your bill. And we can only assume advertising will soon be on its way.

Clearly, this will eliminate some customer service problems common in restaurants. Who hasn't been ready to leave, then sat for 10 minutes waiting for the check? Who hasn't needed ketchup or a refill and suddenly the server is AWOL? Splitting checks and even figuring the tip is now easier as well.

And from the point of view of the restaurant there are obvious benefits including quicker turnover, more efficient use of staff (read: layoffs), better inventory management, better kitchen management, easier POS integration into other systems, and increased revenue opportunities via payments for game and ad placement and upselling.

Sounds like a win-win, and we've seen other success stories with kiosks like these, including ATMs and self check-in at airports. Airlines particularly have seen great savings from self check-in, reducing check-in costs to 5% of what they were before self-service.

Except there's a problem. We've also seen self-service that looked like a similar bargain turn out poorly for other industries, especially grocery stores. Self-service check-out in grocery stores is an especially good example, because they more closely resemble the transactions of a restaurant than an airline. An airline check-in is a straightforward, repeatable set of operations: identify guest, identify itinerary, offer upgrades, accept payment for extras, and direct the guest to security or to check bags.

In a grocery setting, the number and type of items is more complex. There are physical objects to be manipulated, coupons to be scanned, and sometimes physical money in the transaction. Similarly, with restaurants, the varying

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David has been writing on business and technology for over 10 years and was most recently Managing Editor at Enterpriseefficiency.com. Before that he was an Assistant Editor at MIT Sloan Management Review, where he covered a wide range of business topics including IT, ... View Full Bio
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batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
11/1/2014 | 3:05:58 AM
Re: It will take time
@StaceyE I would like to add this days no one wants get back to basics:

1. quality of product

2. good customer service

3. proper timely warranty service....

 

everyone only want to sell it and forget it...

take a look at the car industry...

recall after recall... and car manf. fail to update customers about recalls... - sad and scary as people do die... if the car fail during road trip ( as failty wire or even brake light...) sad... sad...
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
11/1/2014 | 3:00:49 AM
Re: It will take time

 


@StaceyE last time I attended Microsoft and Intel seminars... everyone expect by 2020 not many brick & mortar store will be left... - new reality of new digital cloud future...
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
11/1/2014 | 2:58:37 AM
Re: It will take time
@StaceyE yes, as everyone keep saying it the way of future... one way or other... even gov. corporation like Canada post - putting ads on tv... - shopping online and cloud :)...
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
11/1/2014 | 2:56:59 AM
Re: It will take time
@StaceyE my question would - what if... as with technology changing rapidly... Co still overlook many things... expecting product life cycle of 2 to 12 months... before upgrade... sad and scary reality...
StaceyE
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StaceyE,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/31/2014 | 4:38:33 PM
Re: It will take time
@ batye

I think companies that start out in the virtual environmet do well to stay that way. I have heard of a couple companies that have successfully opened brick and mortar locations...but haven't heard a lot of success stories of brick and mortar companies switching over to a completely virtual environment.
StaceyE
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StaceyE,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/31/2014 | 4:36:02 PM
Re: It will take time
@ batye

I agree that is a big problem. Many companies focus on beating other companies to the next "greatest thing ever". The result of this is exactly what you stated...a half cooked product with little or no testing. I think some companies would do much better if they put more time and testing into their products...they might actually produce the next best thing ever!
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
10/1/2014 | 12:35:51 AM
Re: It will take time
@StaceyE, interesting point I see this process already happening in China online market... where sellers never have a brick and mortar store... but do have big online sales/profit....
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
10/1/2014 | 12:34:13 AM
Re: It will take time
@StaceyE, this days almost each Co. putting on the market half cooked product with out 100% tested... as example for me would be new Apple iphone... and it bending frame :) scarry reality... of the competative market...
StaceyE
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StaceyE,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/30/2014 | 2:10:40 PM
Re: It will take time
@ Batye

Your right as with any new technology, only time will tell if it will be accepted or rejected. I think its important to test new processes or technology before fully implementing them into any business.
StaceyE
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StaceyE,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/30/2014 | 2:06:42 PM
Re: It will take time
@ Batye,

It really could backfire if not implemented properly. If a store decided one day that it was going to close its doors to its brick and mortar, and sell its products striclty online, it would surely lose some business in the short run.
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