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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tjgkg
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tjgkg,
User Rank: Ninja
8/8/2014 | 4:18:20 PM
Re: wawa made it work
Humans will have to IM each other soon if they want interaction.
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
8/2/2014 | 11:34:35 PM
Re: It will take time
I have to disagree as many factors in play... how I see it... but this days Co. using carrot and stick approach... like discoint of 2% if customer uses self-checkout...
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
8/2/2014 | 11:32:15 PM
Re: wawa made it work
humans craving interactions with each other... and this point this days Co. tend to overlook... as technology never able to replace human server - yet...
batye
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50%
batye,
User Rank: Ninja
8/2/2014 | 11:30:49 PM
Re: wawa made it work
interesting to know.... in Canada we are good few years behind with tablets as pos devices... but it comming to the store near you... one day... 
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
8/2/2014 | 11:28:23 PM
Re: Tablets are worthless & notoriously insecure
for devices from uknown source from China... it does happens and it does affect Canadian gov. more than they want to admit... as no one willing to talk about it...
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
8/2/2014 | 11:26:35 PM
Re: Tablets are worthless & notoriously insecure
this days Co. trying to find balance of speed vs security... sometimes it works... but Co. tend to overlook it...
StaceyE
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StaceyE,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/31/2014 | 7:51:13 PM
Re: It will take time
@ batye

Sometimes you really can't teach an old dog new tricks. 
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
7/31/2014 | 12:05:18 PM
Re: It will take time
yes, as to each his own way of life :)
StaceyE
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StaceyE,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/31/2014 | 11:03:01 AM
Re: It will take time
@ batye

There will always be people who are not hip with technology. If they had no other option than using the tablet they may just go to another restaurant.
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
7/1/2014 | 7:21:03 PM
Re: It will take time
agree in this case customers should have ability to get choice to use or not...
<<   <   Page 2 / 11   >   >>
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