Do Restaurant Table Tablets Really Provide a Convenient Dining Experience?

For a few years now, I have heard about restaurants someday having tables that take your order, therefore eliminating the need for waiters and waitresses. I really never thought I’d never see this happen, but I was wrong. Just recently I had dinner at a Chili’s restaurant and was surprised to find a small touch tablet on the table when I sat down.

The hostess explained that the table tablet was just for ordering appetizers and desserts, and a server would be over to take my drink and entree order. She also said I could look at the menu, sign up for their rewards club, check the weather and news, play games, and pay the bill with the tablet. It was nice to know that I had all these great options at my fingertips, but also a relief to know I still had a server to interact with as well (the tablet can’t bring me extra napkins or answer questions). The server promptly came over to my table and took my drink order while I looked over the menu. When he came back with my strawberry lemonade, I placed my order and then the waiting began.

Table tablet matching game
The matching game killed some of the anxious waiting time.

It was great having a something to do while waiting for my food. It took my mind off of being so hungry (usually when I’m waiting I look around at everyone eating and it makes the wait so much longer). I played a few rounds of the ‘Capital One Credit Card’ matching game (nice subtle advertising, huh?) that held my attention for about five rounds, then I switched over to check the weather and news. Before I knew it, my delicious avocado burger was in front of me.

At the end of my dining experience I paid my bill using the tablet. It took literally ten seconds to swipe my card and sign the tablet with my finger. It was so fast! Normally it takes another ten minutes for the server to bring you the bill, pick up the card to charge it, and bring the receipt back for you to sign. The tablet saves you all the hassle of waiting, but there is an option for the server to bring you a paper receipt if you’d prefer.

Here’s a quick recap from my experience:

Pros of restaurant table tablets:

  • Easy to use
  • Fast and convenient for paying the bill
  • Ability to check the weather and news
  • Games pass the wait time faster
  • Has a calculator for splitting the check or calculating the tip

Cons of restaurant table tablets:

  • Takes away the human interaction
  • Cannot answer specific questions (about food or your bill)
  • Some of the games cost money to play
  • Threatens many jobs for wait staff

All and all, I had a great first experience with the table tablet. It was mildly entertaining and very efficient. An early study showed that people who dined at restaurants with table tablets ordered 10-12% more than they would have with a waiter; therefore I’m certain that other restaurants will jump on the table tablet band wagon in the near future. Here’s my main concern, though: if we use the table tablet technology in every restaurant, what will happen to the wait staff? Of course people will still be needed to operate the restaurant smoothly, but they will have less to do if the tablets are taking all the orders. My guess is that jobs will be lost, and restaurants will have only the bare minimum staff. That’s a huge con, especially in this economy!

Image credit via TableTop Media’s press kit.