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Table-Top Tablets: The Next Generation of Service.

Technology has come a long way in the past several years. More than 60% of Americans carry smartphones, schoolbooks are rapidly being replaced by e-books, downloaded onto laptops or tablets, and now restaurants are beginning to replace their paper menus with digital ones. Tablets are becoming more and more commonplace in dining rooms across the country. Those who have taken the leap generally have very few complaints, but table-top tablets (say that ten times, fast) certainly have their drawbacks as well as their advantages. If you are considering implementing this convenient new technology, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Tablets won’t replace servers: If you are hoping to buy tablets and get rid of your front of house staff, think again. (Also: if you’re really that intent on firing your servers, you definitely need new ones). People go out to restaurants, not only for the food, but also for the experience. Servers provide a huge part of that experience. While tablets can certainly streamline service, they can by no means replace personal interactions with servers.

2. Tablets enhance service: Tablets actually allow your servers to put all their energy into providing the best service possible. Because they aren’t running back and forth to the computer to input orders and print checks, your servers can concentrate on making sure that their tables are having their needs met and are enjoying their meals.

3. Tablets put guests in control: Tablets allow guests to input requests for beverage refills, waiter visits, and even chats with the chef. This way, servers don’t have to worry about approaching their tables at awkward moments, or hovering, since their guests, with the tap of a finger, tell them exactly what they need, when they need it.

4. Help regulars branch out: A lot of guests get comfortable ordering the same items again and again, often because they simply aren’t familiar with other dishes. With a tablet, you can provide guests with pictures and in-depth descriptions of menu items that are easily updated on a daily basis, if need be. Sometimes a little more information is all guests need to be a bit more adventurous. This is a marvelous tool for wine menus as well. With a tablet, you can enter as much information about regions, years, grapes and pairings as you like. Guests don’t have to sift through it all, but they certainly can if they want to try something new.

5. Tablets increase sales: Restaurants who have replaced their menus with tablets have reported anywhere from a 25% to 35% sales increase. Rather than waiting for a server to ask if they would like another drink, guests can request another with the tap of a finger. Restaurants using this technology have also reported increased sales of appetizers and desserts. All of this translates into an overall increase in revenue as well as higher tips for servers. When guests get exactly what they want, when they want it, they leave happy. Everybody wins.

6. Enhanced security: Restaurants tend to be hotbeds of credit card and identity theft. With tablets, however, the risk of either of these crimes is greatly reduced. Tablets eliminate the need for a credit card to ever leave diners’ hands, since they are able to key in their own credit card numbers to pay the bill. But. . .

7. Increased risk of theft: Tablets are expensive, at around $500.00 a piece. A handful of owners have had problems with guests pocketing their tablets on the way out.

Tablets are a big investment, but if the time is right, your guests seem ready for it, and you’ve got a little extra cash to play with, it might be just what your restaurant needs. As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts. What do you think about table-top tablets. Do you think they belong in restaurants, or should they be left in office buildings and schools? Please feel free to leave a comment below.