Strategic CIO // IT Strategy
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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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LUFU
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LUFU,
User Rank: Strategist
6/13/2014 | 6:45:35 PM
Eating Out versus Dining Out
If I'm at Chili's I want to get In 'N Out as quick as possible without a fuss. And if self-service Kiosks helps accelerate the ordering, getting served, and getting the check process then I won't balk.

Now, if I'm at The French Laundry in Yountville and Thomas Keller hands me a iPad when I walk in the door, I'll be highly disappointed.
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
6/13/2014 | 3:36:31 PM
Re: Tablets are worthless & notoriously insecure
I think with self serve kiosk it always be a security problem... in ontario it a big mess with gov. run self serve kiosk ... - http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/11/06/service-ontario-kiosks-ontario-government_n_2081077.html
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
6/13/2014 | 3:30:58 PM
Re: Tablets are worthless & notoriously insecure
yes, as everyones try to track customer... one way or other...
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
6/13/2014 | 3:29:22 PM
Re: Love paying this way, hate ordering
Dave, I coulf not agree more, I think this skills still have a good value.... and still need it...
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
6/13/2014 | 2:49:24 PM
Re: Love paying this way, hate ordering
@susan- I think those skills are all valued. Just right now, they have to be paired with a hard skill. I suspect the hard skills will go away as we automate more and more.
Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
6/13/2014 | 2:47:37 PM
Re: Love paying this way, hate ordering
@Dave: Hear Hear!!  "I'm hoping to live long enough to see the Star Trek world where none of us works unless we want to and we all have replicators."


What's interesting to me is that the very sckills you highlight -- creativity, communitcation, writing -- seem to have the least value for our culture right now. Musicians or artists of any kind are expected to give their work away for free, for example. 

I hope you're right that the future will catapult those skills back to the top of the heap.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
6/13/2014 | 12:03:09 PM
Re: Tablets are worthless & notoriously insecure
@asksqn- With all due respect, I think that attitude is one that holds IT back. Sure, it is easy for an IT professional to navigate any computer interface. But there is a digital divide in this country and many people (those people not suprisingly shop at grocery stores and eat at restaurants) are seeing tablets and touch screens for the first time in their lives as they are encountered in these places. 

The more universal the product (and food is as universal as it gets) the more careful we need to be to remember not everyone is as smart or experienced as we are.
asksqn
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asksqn,
User Rank: Ninja
6/12/2014 | 10:15:39 PM
Tablets are worthless & notoriously insecure
First off, self service check outs in grocery stores has not gone away nor is it confusing.  It's fairly straight-forward provided that the user possesses a working brain.  Any problems, an employee can be summoned and is right there to fix it.  Boom. Done.  On the other hand, as to self-order kiosks in restaurants, the only problem I see is utter lack of security.  Tablet security?  LOL there is no such thing. Target can't even get security right and they use a WIRED connection straight to the POS AND have employees.  If anyone wants to input their credit card data into a tablet then have at it, but I won't be any time soon.  Tablet ordering is a nightmare easy ID/cr. cd. theft waiting to happen.   
PedroGonzales
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PedroGonzales,
User Rank: Ninja
6/12/2014 | 9:13:32 PM
Re: Love paying this way, hate ordering
now that you mentioned it. I don't like the idea of automating the restaurant.  After your cross that line, it opens the door for other areas. 

Personally, I don't like the groceries self check outs, many times they do not work and they are a hassle to get your food check out by yourself.  The time it takes me to do that will be much slower than with a person. You are right, robot technician will be the next useful ocupation.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
6/12/2014 | 6:39:03 PM
Re: Love paying this way, hate ordering
@Susan- I demand that my kids learn to repair robots. I figure at the very least, the robot overlords will need to treat them well.

Seriously, I think technical skills and soft skills that will be hardest for computers to learn-- creatvity, communication, writing. 

But I'm hoping to live long enough to see the Star Trek world where none of us works unless we want to and we all have replicators.
<<   <   Page 4 / 10   >   >>
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