Restaurant chain Chili's is rolling out table top tablet computers to most of their 1200 locations after a successful test run earlier this year.
According to a Business Week article:
"No, it’s not an effort to replace wait staff with machines and cut down on labor costs, insists Nicole Cochran, senior director of marketing at Chili’s. The table-top tablets give the dining experience a novel and modern flair, but that’s not why Chili’s is moving ahead with the effort. The real allure of the tablets, Chili’s has found, is that they reliably increase the size of the average check."
During the test period Chili's found the tablets, which display food ads in addition to being payment devices, increased appetizer and desert sales by 20%. They also found that diners tend to tip better (the tablet recommends a 20% gratuity).
Also, because diners can pay via the tablet they don't have to wait for their check. This saves time, increases table turnover and leads to happier customers.
While the chain is playing down the labor implications of adding tablets, there's little doubt the use of tablets will improve productivity and lead to at least a small reduction in the use of human labor.
The tablets will also be used as labormetrics devices, providing performance and productivity data on workers and the overall dining experience. Yet another example of growing role data and analytics are playing in our economy.
I had the opportunity to dine at a tablet equipped Chili's recently. I liked the ability to pay using the tablet and yes, I ended up tipping the recommended 20% (it was easier than changing the tip). I didn't order more food, but from my perspective it improved the overall experience.
Expect to see more tablets in restaurants.