Technology seems to be proliferating in every aspect of our lives these days, from our morning commute to our shopping experience to our workout. Now it is appearing in an area that has, until recently, been free of mobile devices.
But it isn't exactly texting at the table. Many restaurants are introducing fully-integrated tablet and touch-screen ordering processes to streamline the customer experience and help patrons get their food while it's still hot.
Cutting out the middle man
Some establishments, particularly chains and fast food restaurants, are opting to let customers dictate orders to a tablet rather than a waiter or cashier. This change will help reduce human error and speed up the order process. One company, E la Carte, has already brought its food service tablet offering to Applebee's and is ramping up for more locations. E la Carte Chief Executive Rajat Suri sees the restaurant industry as ripe for an upgrade.
"Your home is being transformed by Nest and other smart home companies. We see restaurants as a key area of daily life that has not transformed yet – especially the dining room," Suri told Tech Crunch. "One can imagine the restaurant of the future being very different. Restaurants should know what you want and when you want it."
While high end, gourmet restaurants may still prefer a waiter – someone with expertise on the preparation of a dish, what it contains and what it pairs best with – places that value fast, quality output are the ones likely to adopt the new system.
Locations that have installed Suri's Presto tablet have enjoyed a 5 percent uptick in sales and a 7-10 minute gain in turnover. That means patrons are spending more and leaving earlier, significant benefits for "fast-casual" chains and small, family-owned diners.
Interactive table setting
One restaurant in Tucson, Arizona has changed the very surface that customers dine on, according to Fox News. Dan Collins, software engineer, designed "smart tables" for his wife's restaurant – touch screen surfaces that allow kids to play games and, ultimately, parents to place orders.
The tables cost between $3,000 and $5,000 to create, but Collins hopes that the expense will be made up through increased traffic and lessened labor requirements.
"This is the wave of the future," Collins told Fox News. "You're starting to see tablets in other restaurants. But they're not fully integrated into their operation. Here we're going to fully integrate it into the operation."
Online ordering already well underway
Those who order food for delivery have already abandoned the trials and frustrations of a poor phone connection, loud commotion on the other end and the dreaded "Hold, please." Companies like Domino's pizza have embedded their own online ordering forms into their website that allows full customization without the hassle of talking to a busy employee. One can even pay for the order, including tipping the driver, through the Internet.
Other vendors – even restaurants with a single location – can implement third-party software to achieve the same results. For smaller establishments, using the software can reduce crippling labor restrictions by allowing staff to focus on the customers actually present in the building rather than the callers. The software can also allow diners to make reservations and view upcoming events and specials.
Soon, the entire ordering and dining experience may be completely free of human error.
Hospitality and restaurant industry piece brought to you by Marlin Equipment Finance, leaders in food service equipment financing. Marlin is a nationwide provider of equipment financing solutions supporting equipment suppliers and manufacturers in the security, food services, healthcare, information technology, office technology and telecommunications sectors.