12 Comments

Summary:

The big casual bar-and-grill chains are embracing digital menus and ordering much more quickly than their peers in the restaurant industry.

Ziosk tablet menu
photo: Ziosk

The items on the menu at Chili’s may not have changed much in the last decade – baby back ribs and quesadillas, anyone? — but the format of those menus just got a major overhaul. Bar-and-grill chain Chili’s announced Tuesday that it’s finished installing tablets at the tables of 823 company-owned restaurants in the U.S. Customers can use the tablets to order food and drinks and pay their bills.

Chili’s, which is owned by Dallas-based Brinker International, is using specially optimized (and ruggedized) Android tablets mounted on stands made by Ziosk. Each terminal not only contains Chili’s menu, but a few entertainment features as well: you can play a few Android games and check in on Facebook, using the Ziosk tablet’s built in camera.

When it’s time to leave, you can swipe your credit card on a built-in reader, scan in coupons and leave a tip, all without interacting with the server. As soon as the payment is processed, the tablet resets, erasing the history and login credentials of everyone at the table. Hopefully the busboy remembers to wipe down the screen before the next table is seated — that rib sauce is sticky.

We’ve been starting to hear a lot more about tabletop tablets in restaurants and surprisingly it’s the casual bar and grill chains that are leading the way. Applebee’s recently signed a deal with E la Carte to distribute nearly 100,000 tablets across its restaurants. Buffalo Wild Wings is doing a chain-wide rollout of Buzztime’s Playmaker tablet.

  1. Japan has been doing this for some time now. I think it is a great idea.
    Leslie

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  2. Andrew Hanelly Tuesday, June 10, 2014

    The question is – how long until the tablets also replace the server?

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    1. Jason McKenzie Tuesday, June 10, 2014

      Well tablets are just an AV input/feedback device, so never. But robots… I give it 15 years max.

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  3. Careful all those games add $0.99 to the bill! Push the grayed out button to go back!

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    1. flutterbydragonfly Friday, June 13, 2014

      I couldn’t believe they charged us to use the tablet. They lost a longtime customer because of that nonsense.

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  4. IWantMyBabyBack Tuesday, June 10, 2014

    I’ve seen these at my local Chili’s – they haven’t figured it out yet. A kid at the table next to ours took the tablet and started playing games on it. It was charged (and removed from) our bill. The tablets had been at that Chili’s for only a week or so and already they were getting grimy so didn’t want to touch it, especially before eating. I don’t really like the idea of ordering food through it because it does not have an opinion or make suggestions like the waitstaff does. I don’t see how special ordering (i.e. “citrus allergy”) can be communicated to the back of the house. And speaking of waitstaff, this is circumventing 50 percent of their job. They will no longer take the order, or transact the bill; they just bring the food and refill the drinks. And that’s something else they missed, there isn’t a “call waiter” button on it (which I think is the one thing patrons really want). Having a digital menu and game machine is fine ( It would be nice if patrons could put it to sleep) but to push half the waitstaff’s job on to the patron makes the dining experience less enjoyable. My wife and I lamented the change in what was one of our favorite restaurants.

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  5. How long till they replace their the wait staff with the same thing?

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  6. I just don’t know where people are going to work 10 years from now.
    Not everyone can be a scientist or bank president.

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  7. I hope the people sterilize the tablets before the next patrons. I would hate to see dried on stuck food on the tablets or someones germ infested kid drools all over it.

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  8. It’s really low class. You go out to dinner to be served, to focus on the dining experience with your friends and family. (granted I don’t like it when you can see the TV from anywhere but the bar). Seriously – first tme I went to the Unos with the tables (for a fundraiser) I though they were a) masking their service or b) thinking they could make themselves attractive by providing baby sitting. And it’s awful when you want your kids to have a break from the media.

    If I wanted this experience, I’d call for delivery pizza and set up the Wii and hand the iPad to the kids, carte blanche .

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  9. It’s dirty and disgusting. I mean how many dirty chip eating fajita hands have touchd the screen before me today?? It distracts my kid during dinner and since he’s a toddler I have no choice but to give it to him otherwise he throws a fit. And not once but always someone inevitably buys a stupid game by mistake (usually not my wife or I) because they are 2 years old and want to press the pretty bright screen and paid for a game without knowing it. Now I’m forced to look like a cheap bastard asking the server who then says he has to get his manager to remove the charge from my bill.

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  10. My whole family already has mobile devices that we brought ourselves, and each one is personalized for each of us with the games we like. And my mobile device only has my germs on it. I don’t see my wife letting the kids touch it.

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